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Present simple – passive

There are several reasons as to why we use the passive voice in English. In these notes, we’re going to focus on the present simple in the passive voice and its elaborations. Generally, we use the passive when the focus is on the action and NOT on WHO or WHAT is performing the action.

Construction: am/is/are + past participle

Example verb: draw

I am drawn  We are drawn
You are drawn  You (guys) are drawn
He/she/it is drawn  They are drawn
(1) The subject is unknown. We don’t know who is the subject. 
  • The man who is believed to have stolen the goods must be brought to justice. (we don’t know who is the man)
(2) We use the passive to emphasise the subject. 
  • Paris and London are visited by many people each year. (The emphasis is on Paris and London).
(3) We use the passive to talk about general truths. 
  • Certain animals are known to attack humans.
(4) We can use the passive if we want to be unclear or vague about the subject. 
  • Mistakes are committed.
(5) We use the passive when the subject is irrelevant. (We don’t care who or what has caused the action to be). 
  • English classes are taught here every day. (WHO teaches the classes is not important within the given situation).
(6) We use the passive in a more formal atmosphere like a thesis or an important piece of writing, especially scientifically speaking. 
  • The water is thus poured into the dish to form the desired product.
  • The whole scientific process is done over three years.

English Verbs – The Complete Guide

Lesson #29: Present simple – passive voice

Explanation

Construction: am/is/are + past participle (helped, known, found)

Example verb: make

I am made   We are made
You are made You (guys) are made
He/she/it is made     They are made
Context
  • Which industries do you think will dominate the future, Sarah?
  • Well, we’re living in a very technological era,1 and I think we’re set2 to see the birth of technologies such as blockchain, cloud computers, electric cars and quantum computing.
  • It sounds incredible, doesn’t it?3
  • It sure does. It is argued that cloud computing and quantum computers are the main innovations so far.4
  • So, what is known about cloud computing thus far?5
  • I only know from what I’ve read, but cloud computing is used by most of us already.6
  • Oh really? How so?
  • The cloud is used for such things like7 our email accounts, documents and photos with Google etc., things like that, I guess.
  • Moreover, I’ve read that it’s expected8 we’ll see much more cloud computing in the future.
  • I sure hope so!
Analysis
  1. Well, we’re living in a very technological era. Here, the present continuous (we’re living) is used to talk about a present state. The state being ‘living in a very technological era’. The present simple could also be used here.
  2. I think we’re set. The passive voice in the present simple is used here (we are set). The past participle is ‘set’ (set – set – set), and it’s being used to emphasise the subject ‘we’.
  3. It sounds incredible, doesn’t it? ‘Doesn’t it’ is a question tag. The verb ‘do’ is used to form the question tag because ‘sounds’ is a normal verb. We always use ‘do’ as the default verb to make question tags with normal, non-auxiliary verbs.
  4. It is argued that cloud computing and quantum computers are the main innovations so far. ‘It is argued’ is a passive construction for the present simple tense. The construction being the verb to be in third person singular (is) and the past participle of ‘argue’, ‘argued’.
  5. What is known about cloud computing thus far? The present simple in the passive construction ‘is known’ is used because we don’t know anything about the subject.
  6. Cloud computing is used by most of us already. The present simple in the passive ‘is used’ details the passive voice in the present simple. Emphasis is put on ‘cloud computing’.
  7. The cloud is used for such things like… ‘is used’, is another use of the passive voice in present simple.
  8. I’ve read that it’s expected. ‘It’s expected’ is the passive voice in the present simple. The passive is used here to be unclear or vague about ‘what is expected’.

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