1.The simple past passive
The passive voice has many forms. For example, ‘The document was delivered yesterday‘ is an example of the simple past passive. The active form of this sentence might be: ‘The courier delivered the document yesterday‘. In the first (passive) sentence, the verb phrase is ‘was + the past participle of deliver‘. In the second (active) sentence, the simple past tense verb is ‘delivered‘. There are a number of reasons why the passive might be used. In the case of the document that was delivered yesterday, knowing who did the action (i.e. the agent) may not be useful or interesting (or it may just be obvious). Perhaps we care more about the document arriving at its destination (or the time it reached there) than who took it. Consequently, the ‘agent’ (i.e. the person or thing doing the action) may drop out of the sentence or be added at the end using ‘by’. (For example, ‘The document was delivered yesterday by the courier‘)
2. Look at this extract from The Lake (Chapter 1) and find the passive.
The house that Annie lived in was built by her grandfather. It overlooked the Eastman River just two miles north of the silver mine at Hunting. Two hundred years ago, her grandfather worked in the mine, but the silver didn’t last. After the mine closed, most people moved away. Within a year, Hunting was empty: people needed work. Some went to Easton, the nearest city, and began new lives. Soon, Hunting became a ghost town, a place with empty houses, broken windows and empty streets. In the distance, amongst the forest that grew on the valley slopes, Annie could still see some of the roofs of Hunting’s empty buildings.
3. Think of a suitable person or thing as the agent in these sentences
e.g. He was fired two days ago = His boss fired him two days ago.
a. The windows were washed last week.
b. The marks for the exam were handed out before we left.
c. The thief wasn’t caught.
d. That photograph of me was taken at my birthday party.
e. Rice is grown in many parts of India.
f. ‘Why were the children sent to bed early?’