General English Level 5 V 3
UNIT 02 The world we live in TOPIC 03 From tree to timber
LANGUAGE FOCUS 03 The passive - present simple

The passive

Eco Logging's brochure says:
The logs are taken to the road and loaded onto timber trucks.
After this, the timber is transported to timber yards.
  Finally, the timber is made into tables, floorboards and other products we use in our everyday lives.

These sentences describe a process: the process of taking logs from the forest and making them into timber products.

They use the passive in the simple present tense.

We often use the passive when we are talking or writing about a process.

In the first sentence, we could say: "Workers take the logs to the road and load them onto trucks." But we are more interested in the logs than the people who do the work. So we put "the logs" at the beginning of the sentence and then use the passive .

In the second and third sentences the actions - what happens to the timber (the transporting, the making) - are more important than who does actions. Here we don't say who does the actions, because it is not important.

We use the passive when the person or thing acted upon is more important than who or what did the action. We also use the passive when we don't know or don't care who did the action.

We can include the person or thing who did the action in a passive sentence by using by + a noun. For example:

The apples were packed by the workers.
The workers were trained by the managers.

We form the present simple passive with a form of be (is/are) + the past participle.

Learn more about past participles.

Paper is made from wood.
The leaves and branches are trimmed each month.


Floorboards are made of wood.
The wool is taken by large trucks to the factory.
Wheat is made into bread and other food products.
The rice is cooked for half an hour. After this, it is fried with some onion.
Coffee is imported from Brazil.
Eco Logging's brochure says:
They [the loggers] wear personal protective clothing and use two-way radio contact at all times.

In this sentence who wears the protective clothing is important.

When we want to talk about the person or thing that does the action, we don't use the passive, we use the active.

Changing active to passive voice

Look at the examples showing how sentences in the active voice can be changed into sentences in the passive.

They saw off the branches. The branches are sawn off.
Someone plants the seeds. The seeds are planted.
People load the bags onto the truck. The bags are loaded onto the truck.
He cuts the paper into strips. The paper is cut into strips.

Eco Logging's brochure says:
Tree cutting work is dangerous and our loggers are highly trained in safety.

Highly is an adverb. We can use adverbs with verbs in the passive just as we do with verbs in the active.


Our loggers are highly trained in safety.
The forest is badly damaged.
The food is specially prepared.

Now go to 04 LANGUAGE FOCUS The present passive - task.


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