We make the passive using ‘be’ – in a suitable tense – and the past participle (‘done’, ‘played’ etc.). We use the passive:

1) … when we don’t know, or we are not interested in, who does an action.

  • My car was stolen yesterday.
    We don’t know who stole the car.
  • A lot of wine is produced in France.
    It’s not important who produces the wine.

2) … when the main topic of the sentence isn’t who did the action.

  • Television was invented in the 1920s by John Logie Baird.
    The main topic here is television – we aren’t particularly interested in ‘who’.
  • Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
    In English we tend to put the most important thing at the start of the sentence.

3) … more in written English than in spoken English.

  • War and Peace was written by Tolstoy.
    You often see the passive in textbooks.
  • The mixture is heated to 500˚C.
    Scientific texts especially use the passive.


The passive can be used with all tenses – the form of ‘be’ changes.

  • What is tiramisu made from?. Present Simple.
  • The hall is being painted this week so our class will be in a different room. Present Continuous.
  • Oranges have been grown here for centuries. Present Perfect.
  • When he got home he found that his flat had been burgled. Past Perfect.
  • The work won’t be finished until next week. Future Simple.

Modal verbs also use ‘be’ and the past participle.

  • Answers must be written in pencil.
  • Competition entrants might be chosen to appear on TV.

Modal verbs

The modal verbs are complementary verbs. They are used with other verbs to express ability, obligation, possibility, permission, habits…

The differences from normal verbs:

  1. They are followed by the infinitive of another verb (without to-exception “ought to”)
  2. They don´t use “s” for the third person singular
  3. No auxiliary in interrogative or negative


To express ability: I can speak German
To express possibility: Tom can´t help you; you can pass your test if you study
To request permission (questions): Can I open the window?
To request possibility (questions): Can you work this afternoon?


To express ability in the past: I coudn´t sleep last Monday
To express possibility in the past: Tom couldn´t help you yesterday
To express possibility in the future: You could pass the exam if you studied.
To request permission (questions more formal): Could you pass the water, please?
To request possibility (questions more formal): Could you help me?


To express possibility: I may be home late.
To express permission (very formal): You may leave if you like.
To request permission (questions very formal): May I sit down , please?


To express possibility in the future: I will take an umbrella because it might rain later.
To express permission (more formal than may): Might I ask whether it would be a problem to resume the discussion at a later date?
To request permission (less possible than may): He might have to stay the night because of the bad weather.


To express determination: We will help you.
To ask for information: Will he go to Madrid by car or train?


To request or offer: Would you like a cup of tea?
To express a preference: I would like a beer.


Similar that “will” but very formal.
To express determination: I shall eat meat
To ask for information: Shall we go to the cinema or a restaurant?
To express a suggestion: Shall we meet at 9am?
Question tags: Let´s go to the park, shall we?


Very formal.
To give advice: You should stop smoking
To express obligation: Should we leave a tip?
To ask for a recommendation (questions): Should I have the meat or the chicken?


To give advice: He ought to stop smoking


To express obligation: You must brush your teeth two twice a day.
To express possibility: He must be over 90 years old.
Rhetorical questions: Must he talk so much?

Make and Do

“Make” y “do” son dos verbos que se confunden frecuentemente en inglés. Ambos se pueden traducir como “hacer”, pero hay algunas diferencias en su significado. En general, “do” considera más la acción, mientras que utilizando “make” nos referimos más al resultado de la acción.


Se usa “do” para acciones, actividades y trabajos. Se utiliza en un sentido amplio, como “realizar”. En general, estas acciones y actividades no producen un objeto físico.


Se utiliza “make” en el sentido de “fabricar”, “elaborar” o “crear”. Se usa para actividades en que se crea algo que se puede tocar, un objeto físico.