General English Level 5 V 3
UNIT 04 Crime and punishment TOPIC 01 A near-perfect crime
LANGUAGE FOCUS 04 The passive - past tense
 
The newspaper article says:
The funds were transferred to a secret account under a false name …
… Steadman was caught because she became careless.
  She was seen at the opera …
  She was born into a poor family, but now for the first time she was made to feel like somebody important. She was flattered by the attention she received from the salespeople …

The verbs were transferred, was caught, was seen, was born, was flattered and was made are passive forms of the simple past tense.

We use the passive when the focus of the sentence or paragraph is on the person or thing affected by the action more than on the person doing the action. For example:
She was flattered by the attention she received from the salespeople.
(The focus of the sentences is "She", not "the attention of the salespeople".)

We also use past passives when we don't know or care who did the action. For example:
She was seen at the Opera …
(We don't know, don't care or are not going to say who saw her.)

We form the passive form of the past tense with be (was/were) + the past participle.

The thief was caught by a security guard.
born in London.
seen in a lane.
The computers were stolen by a gang of thieves.

Find out more about the present passive.

Find out more about the present perfect passive.

Find out more about past participles.

Examples

1 Read the examples.
2 Listen to the examples.
3 Practise saying each example. Use the Pause button.
A secret account was opened under a false name.
The thefts weren't noticed by anyone.
Steadman was confronted by her husband.
Her unusual behaviour was triggered by her unhappiness.
The best food and clothes were bought to give her pleasure.

 

Now go to 05 WRITING The passive - past tense.

 

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