be + Past Participle Passives can be formed in any tense, for example:

  • English is spoken in many countries around the world. (Present Simple)
  • My house is being painted at the moment. (Present Continuous)
  • Romeo and Juliet was written by William Shakespeare. (Past Simple)
  • A man has been arrested for breaking into the post office. (Present Perfect Simple)
  • On arrival, you will be met at the airport by our representative. (Future Simple)


When you want to highlight the object of the sentence, you make it the subject:

ACTIVE: Conan Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories.
PASSIVE: The Sherlock Holmes stories were written by Conan Doyle.

When it is obvious who did the action (you don’t need to say who did it):

They were arrested outside the bank. (by the police)
He was given a 5-year prison sentence. (by the judge)

When we don’t know who did a particular action, for example, in news stories:

An old woman has been mugged in the town centre.
The President was shot during a visit to Houston, Texas.

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Are these sentences passive or active?

My aunt gave me a bicycle when I was a child.


The burglar was arrested by the police.


Eight students passed the school exam.


Many people were terribly affected by the environmental crisis.


I've been hit by a hard ball.


The winter gale destroyed the old bridge.