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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds In this video you watched in the last step, we looked at some information about two great figures, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Let’s look again at some of the language I used there.

Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds Here we are talking about Gandhi in the past simple tense. He moved to South Africa. Now look at this one.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 seconds This is still the past simple. But I said he was thrown off the train. It’s passive. Who threw him off the train? We don’t know. And it’s not important. We’re interested in Gandhi and what happened to him. Now, let’s look at some examples about Nelson Mandela.

Skip to 1 minute and 3 seconds Is this active or passive? It’s active because Mandela is the one who’s doing the attacking. What about this one though?

Skip to 1 minute and 19 seconds Here we see another example of the passive voice. Mandela is still the subject as now he is the one we’re interested in. Anyway, we don’t need to know who charged him. That’s obvious. Mandela is not the agent of the verb though. That’s why we use the passive.

Skip to 1 minute and 41 seconds Now read the information on the screen below. If you have any questions about use the passive voice, don’t forget to ask.

The passive voice

There were many examples of the passive voice in the video. For example:

Gandhi was thrown off a train because he refused to move from first class.

Mandela was tried for his attempts to overthrow the apartheid regime in South Africa.

In both of these cases, the passive voice is used because it is unimportant (or obvious) who did the action of the verb.

Gandhi and Mandela are the focal points of these sentences, so we make them the subject, even though they are not the agents of the verbs.

Passive sentences are formed with the verb be (is, was, has been, had been, is going to be) followed by the past participle of the main verb. We can make passive sentences in the past, present and future.

Gandhi was barred from hotels as he travelled around the country.

Mandela is remembered every year on July the 18th: Mandela Day.

Do you think the sealing of Magna Carta will be celebrated in another hundred years’ time?

Do you have any questions about use of the passive voice? If so, please feel free to ask!

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This video is from the free online course:

Exploring English: Magna Carta

British Council