Unit 4.2

Modal Verbs in Passive Voice

Introduction

Passive form is used to express the idea of something or someone receiving an action or experiencing a particular event or effect.

A modal verb is a type of auxiliary (helping) verb that has no meaning on its own but it modifies the main verb, changes its meaning and gives more details about the action.

We can use passive voice with modal verbs too.

Form

Modal verbs in passive voice have different forms in the present, past and future.

Present form

The present form of the passive structure is:

  • affirmative: Subject + modal verb + be + past participle + …
  • negative: Subject + modal verb + not + be + past participle + …
  • interrogative: Modal verb + Subject + be + past participle + …?

Past form

The past form of the passive structure is:

  • affirmative: Subject + modal verb + have been + past participle + …
  • negative: Subject + modal verb + not + have been + past participle + …
  • interrogative: Modal verb + Subject + have been + past participle + …?

Future form

The future form of the passive structure is:

  • affirmative: Subject + modal verb + be + past participle/being + past participle + …
  • negative: Subject + modal verb + not + be + past participle/being + past participle + …
  • interrogative: Modal verb + Subject + be + past participle/being + past participle + …?

Example

  • Your accessories may be stolen by thieves.
  • Your accessories may not be stolen by thieves.
  • May your accessories be stolen by thieves?
  • A nice garden could have been obtained by maintenance.
  • A nice garden couldn’t have been obtained by maintenance.
  • Could a nice garden be obtained by maintenance?
  • He will be given a short-sighted glasses by the doctor.
  • He won’t be given a short-sighted glasses by the doctor.
  • Will he be given a short-sighted glasses by the doctor?

Use

We can use also modal verbs in passive structures with the same general use of the modal verbs.

Summary

We can use also modal verbs (can/could, may/might, must, shall/should, will/would) in passive structures.

This structure can be used in present, past and future forms. In the passive structures, the modal verb is followed by the verb to be and the past participle of the main verb.

For example:
— “The lost jewels could be found by the police.” = We use could in the past to show the possibility the agent police had to find the lost jewels. The focus is on the agent.
— “The lost jewels could be found.” = We use could in the past to show the possibility the subject the lost jewels had to be found. The focus is on the lost jewels.
“The police could find the lost jewels.”  = In the active form the focus is on the subject the police and the modal verb is followed by an active verb, which shows the action performed by the subject.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.

Exercises


Translations

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