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Capítulo 5:

 Passives and making comparisons. Oraciones pasivas y comparaciones en inglés

1. The Passive voice

The passive voice is used when the identity of the subject is not known or not relevant to the statement.  The passive voice can often be heard in political speeches or seen in apologies by businesses who do not want to take responsibility for their actions.  (For more on this, see the email writing course.)

               For example:      My car was stolen. (it is not known who stole it)
                                           A mistake was made. (it is better not to say who made ii)


When rewriting active sentences in passive voice, note the following:

  • the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence
  • the finite form of the verb is changed (to be + past participle)
  • the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is dropped)

¡ Have a look at the chart in appendix II showing the verb tense changes when turning an active sentence into a passive one.


Activity 1
Change these sentences from the active to the passive.

1.     I brought some lemons.

2.     She was wearing a white dress.

3.     If I brought gumboots, my feet would be dry.

4.     Simon has written a note to me.

5.     She will take an umbrella.

6.     I’m taking a photo.

7.     If you would have got a lottery ticket, we might have won.

8.     Sally moves a chair.


Activity 2
Choose the best form of the verb to complete the sentences.

1.     Your jacket ____________on that hook.

a.     can be hung              b. can be hanged             c. can have been hung

2.     The computer____________ by the company.

a.     would be brought    b. was bought                   c. is buy

3.     The criminal­­­­___________ by the police.

a.     would be lock up      b. was locked up              c. locks up

4.     The road__________ if the banks had broken.

a.     would have been flooded     b. has been flooded        c. is being flooded

5.     Mistakes_________ by the government last week.

a.     were made                b. will be made                 c. are being made

6.     My bank loan_________ in five years time.

a.     has been paid off     b. will be paid off             c. is being paid off

7.     The number __________ by my secretary

a.     was being dialled     b. would have been dial   c. is dialled

8.     The fire alarm_________ by the firemen right now.

a.     has been rung           b. would be ring               c. is being rung

9.     The coffee_________ by me

a.     would have be          b. was being made          c. will be make


Activity 3
Identify the passive sentences in this paragraph and then change the sentences from active to passive where you think it is appropriate.

Were too many bills paid by you last year? Are bill payments a source of confusion for you?  If the answer is yes, then help can be given by us, Combined Bills.  Your individual bills are taken by us and one new bill is made from them. One easy payment. If Combined Bills is chosen by you, then your life will be made easier by us!


2. Making Comparisons 

When making comparisons in English we use adjectives with additions made to them.  The structure for these is simple.  If the adjective is only one syllable, we add –er to it.

              small – smaller.

If the adjective is two syllables and ends in -y, then take off the y and add –ier.

                happy – happier.

If the adjective has more syllables, then you don’t change the word at all. Instead use more + adjective.                                        

intelligent – more intelligent.

When comparing two things with a difference between them, we use ‘than’.

               She is more beautiful than her sister.
               Your dog is bigger than mine.

When comparing two things that are the same, we use ‘as’ and we make no change to the adjective

               This car is as expensive as that one.
               He is as tall as his brother.

If you want to say that something is not as good as something else, then we use’ less….. than’ or ‘not as good as

               This pen is not as new as that one.
               This pen is less new than that one.

Language TIP

You can vary the strength of the comparison by using qualifying expressions. You can use 'a lot', 'much', 'a little', 'slightly' and 'far' before 'more than' or 'less than'

  • Sara’s a lot more intelligent than Tim.
  • This motorbike is much slower than the other one.
  • He is much less sporty than he used to be.
  • He's a little shorter than his sister.
  • He's slightly less interested in going to art galleries than her.
  • They are far more involved in politics than we are.

Language TIP

*Remember the rules about –er/more.

For example:
She’s far taller than him. NOT She’s far more tall than him. 
Wendy is a little more prepared for the exam than Carol. NOT Wendy is a little prepareder for the exam than Carol.

There are also expressions to use when comparing two similar things.  These include:
‘almost as … as’, ‘not quite as … as’, ‘(not) nearly as … as’, ‘nowhere near as … as’, ‘twice as … as’ and ‘half as … as’.

These expressions modify the extent of the similarity.  They could be placed on a scale from very similar to not very similar like this:


Language Tip

Some adjectives double their endings when they are used in comparisons.  This is generally done to keep the original sound of the word and used if the end of the word goes consonant/vowel/consonant.

      For example: Big-bigger NOT biger. 

*The stress needs to remain on the g; otherwise we would read it as BIger [baiger], like to rhyme with Tiger.

Other common examples include: hot- hotter, wet-wetter and fat-fatter.


Activity 1
Match the sentence beginnings and endings.


Answer here:



Activity 2
Make comparative sentences using these pictures.


  • Hint 1.   Remember that we use tall and short for people and big and small for things.
  • Hint 2.   Sushi is always singular as it is a collective noun, and pumpkin can be used in the plural and the singular.
  • Hint 3.   While all of these vegetables can be called peppers, we differentiate them by calling the hot one chilli pepper and the larger one capsicum.
  • Hint 4.   This type of car is often called a hotrod.
  • Hint 5.   Think about how each of these items is very useful in a situation, where the other would be no use at all.
  • Hint 6.   Use your knowledge of high school science to think up some interesting comparisons.

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