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Welcome to the Grammar Gameshow! Test your knowledge in this crazy quiz! The presenter is a bit strange, the points don't make sense and the prizes could use some improvement, but at least the grammar is correct!

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Episode 16: Present and past passives

So, despite heart break, Selene made it through. How will she be able to cope any longer? This time she’ll need to answer questions on present and past passives! Those whodunnit verb forms that are made with ‘be’ and a past participle. Who will be our second contestant? What’s the big surprise? Can love win through? Find out in this episode of the Grammar Gameshow!

Watch the video and then test yourself below with our quiz

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Will
Hello and welcome to today’s the Grammar Gameshow! I’m your host, Will! It’s a short ‘I’... less like sheep and more like ship. And of course, let’s not forget Leslie, our all-knowing voice in the sky.

Leslie
Hello everyone!

Will   
Tonight we’re going to ask you three questions about…

Leslie
Present and past passives. That whodunit verb form that’s made with ‘be’ and a past participle.

Will
OK! Now, let’s meet our contestants!

Selene           
Hello all. My name’s Selene.

Will   
And contestant number two? Contestant number two? Oh dear it seems…

Mark 
It’s nice to meet you. I’m Mark.

Selene           
Mark! You came back!

Mark  
Of course. What is a herd of stampeding elephants compared to true love?

Will   
Wow. Mark. This is a first! Welcome back! We really need to feed the elephants less. Still, respect!

Mark  
Thanks, Will. I’ll never let us be separated again, my love.

Selene
Nor I, my… elephant man.

Will
Awww… isn’t that cute. I’ll tell you what. If you can both get through this episode without making a single mistake, I’ll let you both go together.

Mark
Really? Ok! Let’s do it!

Will
OK. Our first round is a quick-fire round. Change these sentences into present or past passives. Someone stole our car

Selene
Our car was stolen.

Leslie
Correct!

Will
People use buses every day.

Mark
Buses are used every day.

Leslie
Correct!

Will
I peeled and sliced the onion.

Selene
The onion was peeled and sliced.

Leslie
Correct!

Will
Selene loves Mark

Mark
Mark is loved by Selene.

Leslie
Correct!

Will
Tell them Leslie!

Leslie
The passive verb form is made using ‘be’ and a past participle verb. The object of the active sentence is moved to the subject position and the verb is transformed. The tense applies to the ‘be’ verb: ‘are’ or ‘is’ for present, and ‘was’ or ‘were’ for past!

Will
Good job, love birds! Have 20 points! On to our next question. We use the passive form for many reasons. Here are a few of them, but one of them is incorrect. Which one is it? The action or object is more important than the subject. We do not know who did the action. The person who did the action is obvious. The action or object is hypothetical or unreal.

Selene and Mark
… mutter... mutter…

Will
I’m going to have to hurry you.

Selene
Trust me.

Mark
To the end of Earth and back.

Selene
The answer is D.

Will
Leslie?

Leslie
Correct! The passive form is only used for specific reasons, mostly concerning how the speaker views the object and subject. If they consider the object or action to be more important than the subject, or if the subject is unknown, or obvious, they are more likely to use a passive structure. Well done, love birds.

Will
Alright! Control yourselves! Three points to you both. One more right answer and you can leave together! Here we go. When using the passive, we may wish to include the person doing the action. This subject is known as the agent, but which preposition do we use to introduce them?

Selene
We use ‘by’. For example, my heart was captured by Mark.

Will
Correct! But it’s not over yet! Sometimes we also include the object that was used to perform the action. This is known as the instrument. Which preposition introduces it?

Selene
I don’t know!

Mark
Nor do I. I’m sorry… we’re not going to make it.

Selene
But at least we’ll be together!

Will
How touching. I can’t let you drop like that! Look…

Selene
With! The instrument is introduced using ‘with’. The door was opened with a key!

Will
Leslie?

Leslie
That’s right! In a passive, if you wish to introduce the person doing the action we use ‘by’. To introduce a tool they have used, we use ‘with’ For example: The elephants were defeated by Mark with his bare hands. What a man.

Will
Indeed Leslie! Well done both of you. That brings us to the end of today’s Grammar Gameshow. You have passed. Here’s what you’ve won!

Leslie
It’s an unmatched set of wedding rings!

Will
I know something about love. Yes… of all the cafes in all the worlds, she had to walk into mine… but that was a long time ago. Go on. Go with our blessing. It looks like we’ll need two more contestants. Well… we’ll see you again next week when…

Levington
I made it! I’m alive!

Will
Levington! You too? We’ve really got to grease that tube! How do you feel?

Levington
I feel invincibl…

Will
Sorry… We can only help one person a day… today wasn’t yours. Loose the bats! Thanks for joining us. Say goodbye, Leslie.

Leslie
Zàijiàn Leslie

Will
See you next time.

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Present and past passives

The passive is a verb form that can be used in any tense in English. The passive is only used for specific reasons. When not using the passive, English uses the active form. Passives cannot be made in sentences with no object.

active form: I painted that house yesterday.
passive form: That house was painted by me yesterday.
passive not possible: The plane flew quickly over the mountains. 

Making the passive
All passives are made with some form of be + a past participle verb. The auxiliary verb 'be' changes to represent the tense. In order to make the passive, move the object noun or pronoun into the subject position and change the verb. 

active form: Dogs often chase cats.
passive form: Cats are often chased by dogs.

Present Simple Passive
Remember that the auxiliary verb 'be' changes to represent the tense. In the present simple 'be' is either 'am' 'are' or 'is'. Therfore present simple passives are made with are/is + a past participle verb.

The trees are grown in special pots.
Rain is stored in the barrels for later use.

Past Simple Passives
Remember that the auxiliary verb 'be' changes to represent the tense. In the past simple 'be' is either 'was' or 'were'. Therfore past simple passives are made with was/were + a past participle verb.

The town was designed for pedestrians.
The animals were taken to the zoo for treatment.

Why use the passive?
The passive is used to focus on the object of an action rather than the subject. The subject might be less important because a) the object is what we want to focus on, b) the subject is unknown or c) the subject is obvious and it would be a waste of time to mention it. Among other reasons, the passive is considered to be a formal reporting structure and is commonly used in official reports, news publication and science. 

a) This house was built in 1930 by my grandfather. (I want to tell you about the house, not my grandfather.)
b) I left my lunch here but it was eaten. (I don't know who ate it)
c) The suspect was arrested last Thursday. (The police arrested him - everyone knows who did this.)

Agents and instruments
The person who does the action in a passive sentence is called 'the agent'. They may or may not be mentioned in the sentence depending on how important they are and what the person wants to say. The agent is always introduced using 'by'. If an object was used to do the action in the passive sentence, it is called 'the instrument' and it is introduced using 'with'

This house was built in 1930. (Who built is is unimportant)
This house was built in 1930 by my grandfather. (The house is more important than my grandfather, but I want you to know about him too.)
This house was built in 1930 with hand tools.
This house was built in 1930 with hand tools by my grandfather.

To do

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The Grammar Gameshow Quiz

4 Questions

Test your grammar knowledge with the Grammar Gameshow quiz!

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You can download the audio and PDF document for this episode here. 

More

That's all from Leslie and the contestants for this episode. Why not go to The Grammar Gameshow homepage to watch another one?