Passive voice in headlines and real-life examples

(Updated 17.2.2020)

If you want to revise how and why to use passive voice in English, you may watch this video:

(annotated pdf file of the presentation used in the video here)

Headlines (both newspaper headlines and TV / radio headlines) tend to use passive voice structures. Why? Because that way:

a. you can make the relevant information the focus of information, by placing it at the beginning of the sentence:
A Lidl employee is believed to have been fired for working too much. 
Paul McCartney is considered the “most successful songwriter in history”. 
b. you can be more impersonal in your statements:
It is estimated that cyber crime costs global economy $445 billion a year. (*)
Cybercrime is estimated to cost global economy $445 billion a year. 
It is now believed that dinosaurs were killed by the fallout from the impact between a comet and an asteroid. (*)
Dinosaurs are now believed to have been killed by the fallout from the impact between a comet and an asteroid. 
(*) The “It is believed…” option tends to be used only in writing, and only in certain kinds of writing: academic writing, for example, when you want to sound “scientific”, or “impersonal / detached” from the information you’re giving. On the contrary, for headlines, the alternative option (He is believed to …) is much more common.

 

Some examples in the news:
  • Nissan is understood to have decided to cancel plans to expand its operations in Sunderland. (…)
  • The Japanese car maker Nissan is expected to announce next week that it’s cancelling planned investment in its plant in Sunderland. (…)
  • It’s now thought the announcement will lead to immediate job losses.

Go to this form (opens in new tab), where you can find many examples of active sentences (which in English may sound a bit too artificial, to be honest), and turn them into passive sentences, so that they can be more appropriate to the context (headlines):

As you will see, some of the feedback for your answers contains clips from real news where these sentences are used.

You can also find many headlines featuring passive voice on the handout below. Most of them, as headlines typically do, omit many grammatical elements, such as articles, auxiliaries…The links and the QR codes take you to the source of the article / headline:

(Open in new tab)

Have something done

Watch this video to remember how to use the structure have / get something done:

How to improve your English (year 1)

Now that the second term is almost over, maybe we can have a look at this list of activities, apps and resources you can use to improve your English, and particularly some skills that might be more complicated to you. All my recommendations are free, or at least have some functionalities which are free.

Using a dictionary: 

At this level, you should really be using an English-English dictionary, and only use a Spanish-English dictionary from time to time.

NEVER, EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, USE GOOGLE TRANSLATE!!!

These are my recommendations for online dictionaries:

  • Oxford dictionary: English-English dictionary, with definition and pronunciation of the word. You can also use the thesaurus, if you want to find synonyms (and you really should).

  • Cambridge dictionary: English-English, Spanish-English dictionary, with definitions, pronunciation of the words (British and American), and phonetic transcription.
  • Macmillan dictionary: English-English dictionary, with definition, pronunciation, and very good thesaurus.

Spelling: 

Spelling City– On this website you can create your lists of words you know you have to learn. They may come from our literacy classes, or from Social /Natural Science. Then, click on “play game”, and you can practise the words you wrote but playing games, not just memorising. It will be easier for you to remember both spelling and pronunciation.

Tutorial on how to register with Spelling City and create lists to play games.

In any case, reading is what is going to help you the most. (More about reading later)

Pronunciation:

  • For most words, go to any of the dictionaries I mentioned above.
  • For countries and place names, people, (and for all other words) you can visit this website: FORVO. Real native speakers (not computers) have recorded themselves pronouncing these words and names for you.

Type the word or name you need, then look it up:

Then you can choose if you want to listen to a British person pronouncing the word, or American, or Australian…

Grammar: 

Reading:

Apart from the books I recommended at Christmas, there are some books in English you can borrow from the school library. You have quite a few by Roald Dahl, for example. Please visit the library. You will get a Class Dojo point if you tell me examples of books in English you could borrow from the library (because you’ve had a look there).

Reading books, comics, articles online…is going to help you understand better, but it will also help you with your writing and spelling. 

Listening: 

In the English Department there are some films you can borrow, and that can help you improve your English. Please ask me.

You can also visit the British council Learn English section on listening. Choose exercises for A2 level, and if that’s too easy, take B1.

T-shirts- ask

What’s wrong with the text on this T-shirt?

img_3512

Past simple – irregular verbs

You can see the list of irregular verbs (by group) here:

IRREGULAR VERB LIST_by group

If you want to do the exercise again:

irregular verb list_exercises

adverbs of degree

http://www.autoenglish.org/gr.degree.i.htm

Present simple or continuous?

http://elt.oup.com/student/englishfile/elementary/a_grammar/file06/grammar06_d01?cc=global&selLanguage=en

http://www.englishexercises.org/makeagame/viewgame.asp?id=1098

http://www.englishlearner.com/beginner/present-simple-continuous-questions-matching-1.shtml

http://www.e-anglais.com/exercices/present.php