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Teaching Passives

I recommend teaching passive verb forms after students have already had a chance to somewhat master the active tenses. The advantage of this is found in the fact that students will hopefully have already learned how to use the active tenses in a discourse For example, they will know that the perfect tenses are used to describe actions that happen before the simple and simple continuous tenses.

Since the passive verb forms follow the same usage relationships as the active, it means we only need to add two pieces of information in teaching students about the passive:

  1. The formula for a passive sentence
  2. The formulas for the passive verbs
1) Let's start with the formula for a passive sentence.

Object + Passive Verb + (by + Subject). ...where the parentheses mean the subject is optional.



*Notice that semantically Tom is still the subject of the passive sentence. He is still the one who did the action. Likewise, a new car is still the direct object of the sentence because it answers the question What did Tom buy?.

2) The formulas for the passive verbs :

The Past Tenses:

  • simple past = was/were + p.p....where p.p. = past participle*
         ex: Tom studied math in school. (active)
         ex: Math was studied by Tom in school. (passive)

    *All passive verbs end in the pp form.
  • past continuous = was/were + being + p.p.
         ex: Tom was studying math in school. (active)
         ex: Math was being studied by Tom in school. (passive)
  • past perfect = had + been + p.p.
         ex: Tom had studied math in school. (active)
         ex: Math had been studied by Tom in school. (passive)
  • past perfect continuous = had + been + being + p.p.
         ex: Tom had been studying math in school. (active)
         ex: Math had been being studied by Tom in school. (passive)

It's worth noting that anytime we want to make a passive form into a continuous passive form, all we have to do is add being before the p.p.

Present & Future Passives

Special Note: Passives are one of the grammar forms that are useful in Teaching Paraphrasing.

 

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page last modified: July 6, 2014


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