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The passive with be
Today we’re talking about Passive Voice and…coffee! Do you like coffee? I adore it! Well, here we go. To begin with, let’s remember the general formula of the Passive. It is the verb to be in a proper tense + past participle (gone, done, eaten etc.). That is to say, is/are/am done – present simple; was/were done – past simple; have/has been done – present perfect simple etc.
Now compare the two sentences.
1. There are many legends about how and when people (subject) discovered coffee (object). The verb discovered is active.
2. There are many legends about how and when coffee (subject) was discovered. The verb is in passive.
In the first sentence, the subject is people, and the object is coffee. People acted, and coffee received the action. In the second sentence, the object ‘coffee’ replaces ‘people’ and becomes the subject.
When we use an active verb, we say what the subject does: Coffee cultivation (the subject) began (the active verb) on the Arabian Peninsula. By the 16th century, people (subject) knew (active verb) about coffee (object) in Persia, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey.
When we use a passive verb, we say what happens to the subject: Coffee (subject) was not only enjoyed in homes but also in many public coffee houses. ‘Was enjoyed‘ is a passive verb. Coffee houses (subject) were known (passive verb) as an important place for exchanging information, and they (subject) were often referred (passive verb) to as “Schools of the Wise.”
Transform active into passive
Let’s see how we can change active sentences into passive. In the 17th century, the Europeans (subject) called (active verb in the past simple form) coffee (object) the ”bitter invention of Satan”.
To make the passive sentence, we have to put the object ‘coffee’ in the place of the subject ‘the Europeans’ and use the structure to be + past participle.
The main/active verb will always be in the past participle form. In our active phrase, it’s the verb called (past simple). The past participle is the same. Coffee is singular, so we need to put ‘to be’ in the singular past simple – was. So what we have is: In the 17th century, coffee was called the ”bitter invention of Satan”. If you want to mention the doer, you can add ‘by the Europeans’.
One more example. Before coffee became a common beverage, the local clergy of Venice had asked Pope Clement VIII to approve it. The passive sentence would be: Pope Clement VIII had been asked to approve coffee.
When do we use the Passive?
- When what happens is more important than who does it: Before coffee beans turn into the coffee in our cups, they have been planted, picked and processed.
- When we don’t know who or what does/did something: The process of gathering coffee can be mechanized.
- When it’s clear from the context who or what does/did something: Coffee is regularly tested for quality and taste (obviously, by the experts).
- When writing or speaking in an official style: Over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed in the world every day (from the news report).
The Passive with ‘get’.
- ‘Get’ can be used instead of ‘be’ mostly in informal spoken English.
- We only use ‘get’ with action verbs to say something happens or changes: Our coffee machine got broken (was broken).
- We shouldn’t use ‘get’ with state verbs (own, belong, believe etc.). So do not say: The coffee machine
got ownedby our company. Say: The coffee machine was owned by our company.
The passive with reporting verbs.
Reporting verbs are: say, think, consider, believe, know, announce, agree etc. The structure is used when we don’t know or don’t want to mention the doer. We use the following structure: a subject + reporting verb in passive + to infinitive or that + a sentence.
- Coffee harvesting by hand (it) is considered to be hard work.
- It is believed that coffee appeared in Ethiopia.
- It has been agreed to have more coffee breaks.
And that’s it! Take care, find time to relax and follow us with a cup of coffee! Next week I’ll give some tips on the exam techniques. Remember to leave your likes and comments, and this was ABC English Levels and your Valentine. Bye!