Passives at C1 level

At C1 level, learners are continuing to develop their mastery of the passive, particularly in more formal or academic contexts.

They can use the present continuous passive negative form to refer to ongoing situations in the present.

In my opinion, the store is not being promoted enough. (Cambridge English: Business Higher; Polish)

Women are not being seen as just inferior to men and incapable of working outside the home. (Cambridge English: Advanced; Portuguese)

Finally, I agree with the fact that mobile phones have helped the human species develop, but as long as they’re not being used in a sensible way, they’re a destructive weapon against children’s health. (Cambridge English: Advanced; Greek)

C1 learners also use the passive, with it as a dummy subject, to summarise or evaluate in discussions, usually in formal or academic writing.

To sum up, it can be concluded that this report has attempted to summarize the main points  regarding the Spanish educational system. (Cambridge English: Advanced; Spanish — European)

In addition, it has been found that some products were difficult to find. (Cambridge English: Business Vantage; Swiss German)

At C1 level, learners can now use the passive non-finite -ing form as a subordinate clause or a noun clause to give explanatory background information.

Being born and raised in Mexico, I believe her to be this country’s best representative  to the world. (Cambridge English: Advanced; Spanish — Latin American)

Being overworked and badly paid, Polish women are torn between their dreams and  their real possibilities. (Cambridge English: Advanced; Polish)

Being invited by your boss for an unexpected lunch makes you feel noticed. (Cambridge English: Advanced; Portuguese)

Source: English Profile.


Passives at B2 level

At B2 level, learners show great confidence in their use of the passive. They employ a wider range of verbs in a greater number of contexts, both informal and formal. They are able to use more tenses and competently use passive structures after modals, as will be seen below.

B2 learners can use the passive with a wide range of verbs needing two objects, putting the indirect object in subject position.

I was very happy to hear that you have been offered two jobs. (Cambridge English: First; Greek)

She was offered a contract to record a single. (Cambridge English: First; Spanish — Latin American)

Your firm has been given some extra money to spend on improvements to the cinema next year. (Cambridge English: First; Chinese)

They can use the passive with a range of tenses and verbs needing two objects, with the direct object in subject position and the indirect object in a prepositional phrase.

Your name was given to me by a member of yours, Allan Westwood, whom I met last  week. (Cambridge English: First; Swedish)

If more training is given to staff, they will be interested in their work and staff turnover will be reduced. (Cambridge English: Business Vantage; Tamil)

By the B2 level, there is evidence that learners can use the past simple passive negative. It should be noted, however, that negative forms are very low frequency.

What is worse, the ticket price was not reduced despite the fact that I showed my student ID. (Cambridge English: First; Japanese)

I had to go to the hospital because my back hurt so badly, and I wasn’t allowed to work for two weeks. (Certificate in ESOL Skills for life Level 1; Hungarian)

I was really disappointed because a lot of things were not done. (Cambridge English: First; Turkish)

Some say that studying animals would be impossible, if they weren’t kept in zoos. (Cambridge English: First;  Italian)

B2 learners can use the present continuous passive affirmative with an increasing range of verbs, and they can now produce sentences in the present continuous passive negative.

… students are not being educated equally. (Cambridge English: First; Mongolian)

To conclude, in my opinion, it is important to keep as many languages as possible alive, so we can make sure that part of human history is not being lost. (IELTS; Portuguese)

Learners at this level can use the past continuous passive affirmative.

However, to my disappointment, the restaurant was closed because it was being redecorated.  (Cambridge English: First; Chinese)

In addition to using the present continuous passive to refer to the future, B2 learners now use the future passive simple.

Just to let you know, you will be booked into the Palace Hotel … (Cambridge English: First; Polish)

First of all, I am very grateful to hear that the cinema will be renovated  next year. (Cambridge English: First; Korean)

Building on the B1 level use of the passive infinitive after need to, be going to, etc., B2 learners use both affirmative and negative forms after an increasing range of main verbs, modal verbs, adjectives and nouns, in impersonal constructions.

According to your advertisement, some training is supposed to be given. (Cambridge English: First; Korean)

My composition was ready to be printed and I was searching for a piece of paper … (Cambridge English: First;  German — Austria)

I would prefer to sleep in a tent because I have never done it and I think it is an experience not to be missed, a very original adventure! (Cambridge English: First; French)

They produce sentences in the present perfect passive affirmative and negative forms, often in the context of reporting.

I have been asked to write a report about an accident which happened to me last Saturday.  (Certificate in ESOL Skills for life Level 1; Polish)

I am writing to you to give you further information about the conference organization and  about the arrangements which have been made for your group of students. (Cambridge English: First; Italian)

This happened two years ago, and the necklace hasn’t been found yet. (Cambridge English: First; Spanish —  European)

At B2, learners can also use the past perfect passive affirmative and negative forms.

The car had been serviced and everything seemed to be all right. (Cambridge English: First; Portuguese)

At this moment, Lime walked in and realised he had been set up. (Cambridge English: First; Dutch)

B2 level learners can competently use the passive with modal verbs in a range of contexts and with a variety of subjects.

Architects should be hired to design parks, where people could go for a walk or have a picnic. (Cambridge English: First; Polish)

As a result, today, it could be said that nearly everyone is living in a digital world which means computers are necessary and very important. (Cambridge English: First; Chinese)

This includes the use of the present perfect simple affirmative and negative forms with modal verbs to refer to the past.

I think that all these problems could have been avoided. (Cambridge English: First; Catalan)

I don’t remember how I lost it, it might have been stolen. (Cambridge English: First; Japanese)

Of course, some groups were better than others but I think they all played well and have talent: they should have been given a chance! (Cambridge English: First; Italian)

It should not have been used in this kind of article. (Cambridge English: First; Korean)

In addition, B2 level learners can use the passive with modal verbs to evaluate or summarise.

In conclusion, it can be seen that the bicycle is more suitable for those who are living in a little town or in the country. (Cambridge English: First; Italian)

Next, I find that our streets are not very clean, another major problem, and I think something must be done about it. (Cambridge English: First; Spanish — European)

Learners at the B2 level can use a wide range of passive forms confidently and appropriately. They can correctly employ the passive in higher level functions, such as making predictions and suppositions, reflecting on the past, evaluating, and summarising. High-frequency expressions in the passive are evident in both formal and informal utterances, e.g. it can be seen, it could be said that, I have been asked, an experience not to be missed, it could have been avoided, etc.

Thanks to English Profile for their wonderful work!

Passives at A2 and B1 levels

Using passives at A2 level

Currently, there is no evidence in the Cambridge Learner Corpus of the use of the passive at A1 level.

Screen shot 2012-10-24 at 4.17.24 PM

At A2 level, learners have begun to use the passive to discuss familiar topics. They can, for example, use the passive affirmative with by to add information about something already known.

 It was bought by my uncle. (Key English Test; Chinese)

It’s made by Sony-Ericsson, I love it … (Key English Test; Italian)

It was written by an excellent author, Lev Tolstoy. (Key English Test; Russian)

Learners at A2 can use the past simple passive affirmative after a singular subject.

It was built in 1880. (Key English Test; Chinese)

On Saturday morning I was invited to a sports competition. (Key English Test; Indian)

They can also use the present simple passive affirmative with a singular subject.

The group is called “playmo”. (Key English Test; French)

I bought a T-shirt, it cost £42 because it is made of cotton. (Key English Test; Spanish — Latin American)

It is interesting to find that A2 learners, who have just been introduced to the present simple and past simple passive forms, are able to make natural and accurate use of them immediately. They can use a number of high-frequency passive expressions, such as be made by, be made of, be built, be invited toand be called, often with it as the subject. However, the sentences they produce are in the affirmative — there is no evidence in the Cambridge Learner Corpus at present of the use of present simple or past simple negative forms at A2.

Using the passive at B1 level

At B1 level, there is a great leap in learner ability to use this voice. In addition to the A2 uses, they are able to use a wider variety of verbs with a greater variety of passive forms.

B1 learners have the ability to use the present simple affirmative and negative with a range of pronoun and noun subjects. Note that the second and third examples shown below are from Business English exams, as are several of the other examples illustrated in the English Grammar Profile at this level. This reflects the more frequent use of the passive in Business writing, due to its more formal nature and the nature of the exam tasks set.

The walls are painted in a dark blue, and the floor is wood. (Cambridge English: Preliminary, Dutch)

Our office is situated near the airport. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary; Spanish — Latin American)

I think we should replace the printer, because it prints very slowly and the sheets aren’t  printed properly. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary; Swiss German)

B1 learners can use the past simple passive affirmative with a range of pronoun and noun subjects, both singular and plural. Although they use the affirmative form competently, there is no evidence at present of any significant use of the past simple passive negative.

It was written in a strange language that I tried to translate. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Spanish — Latin American)

Next day, I heard that my neighbour’s car was stolen. (Skills for Life entry level 3; Polish)

They filmed the flowers and trees, and some pupils were interviewed about their work in  the garden, too. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; German)

Learners at this level can also use the past simple passive affirmative with a limited range of verbs needing two objects, putting the indirect object in subject position.

So I was given a ticket for a train, running from Berlin to Munich. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; German)

We were lucky, because we were given another chance. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Serbian)

The CLC also reveals that at B1 level, learners are able to use the passive with by in more sophisticated ways. They can, for example, use it to give focus.

My school was chosen by the TV company because it is one of the newest in town.  (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Italian)

They can use the passive with by in a relative clause, often to add more information.

 I also like wearing clothes which are manufactured by famous brands. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Tamil)

 It’s the highest mountain in U.A.E. Special roads were built for people to reach the top of  the mountain, which was surrounded by houses. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Arabic — Gulf)

In addition, B1 learners are able to use the passive infinitive after a limited number of expressions including going to, have to, need to and want to.

 It is going to be shown this Friday. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Turkish)

After that, they printed an authorisation form, which had to be signed by my parents because  I’m not over eighteen. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Spanish — European)

He wants to be informed about sales development by the end of November 2001. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary;  Swiss German)

They can accurately use the present continuous passive affirmative, although with a limited range of verbs.

Did you know that the next Harry Potter movie is being filmed in my school? (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Catalan)

Why don’t we stay at my house and visit Tokyo, where an interesting Japanese history exhibition is being held. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; Japanese)

They filmed a class where the clothes are being tested at the moment and they interviewed  some people. (Cambridge English: Preliminary; German)

At B1 level, learners can now use the present continuous passive affirmative to refer to the future.

The seminar is being held at Chennai in the next week. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary; Marathi)

We are being visited by our Sales Director on Thursday morning. (Cambridge English: Business Preliminary;  Portuguese — Brazil)

At present, however, there are no examples of the present continuous passive negative at B1 level. Although negative forms are taught at this level, they don’t seem to be produced until the B2 level. Similarly there is very little evidence that B1 learners are using passives with modal verbs, although again this is taught at this level. This might be an ‘opportunity of use’ issue, i.e. perhaps the students did not get the chance to use these structures in their exams because none of the exam tasks required them. An alternative interpretation could be that they find ways to avoid using these structures until B2, when they become more confident with passives.

Source —