1) A passive verb form is a form of BE + past participle.

2) When the subject is the person or thing doing the action (the agent) we use an active verb. When the subject is not the agent, then the verb is passive:

Columbus discovered America - America was discovered by Columbus

3) In a passive sentence, when we want to say who or what did the action, we use BY:

They were questioned by the police

4) We do not mention the agent when:

- the agent does not add any new information
- the agent is not important
- it is difficult to say who the agent is

5) We can use empty subjects (you, they, people, someone) instead of the passive, especially in conversation:

A new theatre is being opened - They are opening a new theatre
6) We use the passive both in speech and writing, but it is more common in writing. We use it to describe activities in industry, science and technology (processes), official rules and news reports.

7) We sometimes use GET in the passive rather than BE, mainly in informal English, to emphazise change. We often use it for something happening by accident, unexpectedly or in an unplanned way:

Our car got damaged on our way home.
We also use GET in idiomatic expressions like get dressed/married...
Special Passive Patterns
1) In an active sentence a verb of giving can have two different patterns after it:
She gave us a present / She gave a present to us.
Both "us" (but using the subject pronoun) and "a present" can be the subject of a passive sentence. It is quite normal in English for the person receiving something to be the subject in a passive sentence. Verbs in this pattern are: give, send, pay, lend, hand, sell, promise, show, offer, teach, owe, award, grant, allow, leave (in a will) and feed.
2) We can use a special pattern with verbs of reporting when we do not need to know who is doing the reporting:
People say taxes will increase - It is said that taxes will increase
We often use this pattern with IT + BE + SAID (THAT) ... in news reports. Verbs in this pattern are: say, report, mention, announce, think, believe, understand, agree, decide, know, find, expect, hope, regret, fear, intend and arrange.
3) We can also use a pattern with an infinitive:
People said he would win a prize - He was said to win a prize
People said he won a prize - He was said to have won a prize
People said he was planning a new scheme - He was said to be planning a new scheme
 In this pattern we can use: say, report, think, believe, understand, know, find, expect and intend.
 4) HAVE/GET SOMETHING DONE: We use HAVE or GET (more informal) in a passive pattern which means to arrange for someone to do something for you as a professional service:
We had/got our house painted.

Both have and get are ordinary verbs, so they can have an auxiliary when necessary:

When did you have/get your house painted?
We can use have in this pattern with the meaning "experience something", often something unpleasant:
We had our house broken into.

a) Some verbs take a to-infinitive (want to do...) and some take an -ing form (enjoy doing...). After a preposition we use an -ing form (interested in doing...). The to-infinitive or -ing form can be active or passive:

I want to meet them at the airport - I want to be met at the airport
I don't like people laughing at me - I don't like being laughed at

b) Active forms with passive meaning:

- The active form after need has a passive meaning:

The roof needs repairing - The roof needs to be repaired

- We sometimes use an active infinitive to refer to jobs to be done:

I've got some letters to write

- If the subject is not the person doing the job, then we use a passive infinitive:

These letters are to be sent.

- After the subject there we can use either an active or a passive infinitive:

There are some letters to send / There are some letters to be sent.

Adapted from Oxford Practice Grammar (John Eastwood, OUP 1992) by Olga Godoy Giménez

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