Teaching The Passive – Free Presentation

Recently we conducted a Webinar titled “How To Teach the Passive Voice and Passive Constructions”. The webinar was so popular that we decided to release the presentation for FREE Download. You can find a recording of the webinar here.

In the Webinar presentation we cover the basics of how to teach the passive voice, as well as some more advanced constructions. We have a series of 12 lessons to make teaching the passive to your ESL students simple, that you can find on our Teacher Tab.

First, we covered a quick review of what is voice in English grammar:

Voice describes the relationship between:

  • a. the verb
  • b. the thing that does the verb, and
  • c. the thing that receives the action of the verb.

This is a purposefully simple definition that we use with our own ESL students!

Secondly, we covered a quick review of the main items you need to be comfortable with for teaching the passive voice to your students:

  • Subject and Object
  • Agent and Recipient
  • Transitive / Intransitive / Ditransitive / Object-Complement and Stative Verbs
  • The given-new contract
  • The end-weight principle
  • Passive constructions with the passive voice

We then discussed the main uses of the passive (for examples when teaching the passive to your students):

  • To describe processes, especially in writing
  • To introduce new information
  • For an unknown, unimportant or understood agent

And we finalized with some other common passive constructions:

  • Passive in complements
  • Passive in complements with get and have
  • Happenstance passives

The webinar was very well received. Remember, you can watch a recording of the webinar here. It’s definitely worth watching if The Passive is something that you are uncomfortable teaching, or if you would like to see the way another teacher teaches it.

Finally, we hope you enjoy the Free Download of our Teaching The Passive webinar presentation, and have an opportunity to use it in your own presentations and professional development!


  • Terry Mc Gonigle says:

    August 16, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    when I’m teaching the passive I don’t struggle so much with the fundamental explanation of the grammar, but I do find it difficult to generate contexts in which the student needs to express themselves in the passive.
    Which kind of conversation questions or contexts do you guys use to get students to produce the passive?

    • James Heywood (Off2Class) says:

      August 17, 2015 at 12:49 am

      Hi Terry,
      I generally feel that Relative Clauses, Phrasal Verbs and Passive Voice and Constructions belong together in an area of language that is naturally more challenging to elicit in authentic speech for ESL students. So unfortunately, it’s all about vigilance. When the opportunity arise, no matter what I’m teaching, I’ll often stop the student and ask him to rephrase the sentence in the passive, and then request him to explain why I asked this. It’s not the most elegant teaching method, but the passive voice doesn’t come to the fore naturally unless the student has done a large amount of writing, perhaps in a course like EAP or when ESL is part of the school curriculum.
      However, there is always one situation in which I can make it appear a little more spontaneous. Before a lesson, I’ll will research a well-known piece of culture from the student’s own, such as an invention from a fellow citizen, a painting or another work or art, or a famous piece of architecture in the student’s hometown. It forces the passive if the student has learned the given-new principle, and it usually provide the framework for the student to speak in the passive. And of course, if it doesn’t come naturally, I ask question in the passive infer my disinterest in the agent.
      I have found no particular conversation questions that really work across the board. However, I recently noted that a student of mine, whom I have taught for approximately twice a week for seven months, is finally using the passive voice and other passive constructions without my scaffolding. It does work, but it certainly takes time. And of course, I’m teaching one-to-one so it’s just much easier.
      Best wishes,

  • Becky says:

    August 16, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    The webinar is very helpful in terms of methodology because teaching the passive voice can be frustrating to some students.

    • James Heywood (Off2Class) says:

      August 17, 2015 at 12:38 am

      Thank you Becky. I’m that you gained some beneficial ideas from the webinar.
      Best wishes,

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