Passive voice ESL exercises

Written by ann wolters
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Passive voice ESL exercises
Complement exercises from a book with interactive passive voice practice. (back to school! image by Alexey Klementiev from

With passive voice, the recipient of the action moves to subject position, resulting in a shift of focus. Though many grammar books assume that forming the passive is the challenge for English as a Second Language (ESL) learners, knowing when to use passive often proves to be more challenging.

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Grammar exercises that contain game-like elements enhance student motivation and engagement in a lesson, thereby improving learning outcomes. During such exercises, the teacher provides feedback that focuses students' attention to the form or structure of the language.

Observation Exercise

Ask the students to close their eyes. Change five things around the room. Ask students to open their eyes and to guess what changes have been made. You are looking for passive sentences such as "The desk has been cleared" or "The blinds have been closed." Alternatively, use an old and a recent photo of the same place. Students again observe what changes have taken place and make passive sentences about the changes, such as "The store has been remodelled." For extra practice, ask students what changes they think will take place in the same location in ten years.


Students can practice passive sentence construction while playing concentration. Create 12 pairs of cards. Write the name of a famous inventor, author or artist on one card in each pair and write the corresponding invention, book or painting on the other. Make enough sets of cards so that students can play in groups of four. Shuffle the cards and give each group a deck. Have students place the cards facedown in a four-by-six grid. Tell the first student to turn over two cards. If they are a pair, the student makes a passive sentence using the two. If the sentence contains a correctly formed passive construction, the student gets to keep the pair. If the cards were not a pair or if the sentence is incorrect, the student turns the cards back over. Then it is the next student's turn. Play continues until all the cards are matched and correct sentences have been formed.

Revision Relay

Write 12 active sentences that can be changed to passive voice such as "Someone has washed the dishes." Make one copy of the sentences for each team and cut the sentences apart. Distribute the same sentence to all the teams. Have students work together to revise the sentence to make it passive. Then ask one member of each team to go to the board and write their sentence. The first team who gets the correct sentence on the board gets two points and all other teams who have a correct sentence get one point. Play continues by distributing active sentences one at a time and team members rewriting them into passive.

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