We are going to learning how to use active and passive language to help us describe processes that we often see in task 1 of the IELTS academic writing test.
Warm Up Activity - Key Vocabulary
First let's study the vocabulary that we will be using in today's lesson. Match the words to the definitions by dragging and dropping a word, then selecting a gap.
The active voice
We usually describe natural processes with the active voice. This means that the subject of the sentence does the action of the verb.
For example: Workers crush the rocks.
The subject ‘workers’ does the action ‘crush’.
Exercise 1 | Subject Verb Gapfill
The text below describes the natural water cycle. This is a natural process. Write the correct form of the verb in parentheses ( ) in each gap in order to complete the text.
It is important that the subject and verb agree. If a subject is an ‘it’, such as water or rain, then the verb is followed by ‘s’ or ‘es’ (see – sees / go – goes). This simple rule is known to all students but many forget about it when writing. Note that after 'can' the verb does not have an 's'.
The Passive Voice
The passive voice is used when the person or thing that does the verb is not known or is unimportant so in the passive voice the subject of the sentence is not the agent (doer) of the verb.
For example: The letters are taken to the sorting station.
In this sentence, the subject (‘the letters’) is not the agent of the verb (‘taken’) - somebody takes the letters (in this context, it is not important who does the action) - and so the construction is passive. The action is done to the subject.
Notice the form of the verb be – are.
To form the passive, we use be + past participle (verb 3). You must use the correct form of the verb be for number, person and tense. Usually, when we describe a process we would use the present simple (is/are) unless it is explicitly stated to be a past or projected future process.
If we want to include the agent of the verb we can use ‘by’.
For example: The letters are taken to the sorting station by postmen.
Let's practice this grammar with a few activities.
Exercise 2 | Passive or Active?
Read the sentences and decide if each one is active or passive.
ARE THESE SENTENCES PASSIVE OR ACTIVE?
Exercise 3 | Passive Process Gapfill
Manufacturing processes (man-made processes) are usually described using the passive voice. The following texts are concerned with recycling bottles and the production of cement. Fill in the gaps with the correct passive voice form of the verbs given in parentheses ( ). Don’t forget to use the correct form of the verb be!
FILL IN THE GAPS WITH THE CORRECT VERB FORM
Image - Ethiopia National cement factory
| Gavin Houtheusen/Department for International Development [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]