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Verbs which can't be used in the passive

Most verbs can be changed from the active to the passive.

Active voice Passive voice
Sentence We tested the samples. > The samples were tested.

If the verb can be followed by a direct object (a direct object answers the question who or what after the verb) it can be made passive.

Part of speech verb direct object
Senetnce These difficulties may delay the completion of the project.

But the verb occur, for example, cannot take a direct object.

Part of speech Verb Indirect object
Sentence A solution occurred to him.

This cannot be transformed to the passive since there is no direct object to become the subject.

Some verbs which can be used only in the active are: occur, rise, happen, arise, fall, exist, consist (of), depend (on), result (from).

Active and passive verbs
Active (correct) Passive (incorrect)
Problems may occur



Problems may be occurred



They consist of

depend on
They are consist of

depend on
Note: 'They are dependent on . . .' is correct since 'dependent' is an adjective.

A special case:

Part of speech Subject Verb Object
Sentence They lack resources.

Lack can take a direct object but cannot be transformed to the passive:

Resources are lacked (incorrect).

However, you could write:

Resources are lacking.

Label these sentences correct or incorrect

  1. These problems may be happened quite frequently.
  2. Problems may arise in the early stages.
  3. The solution occurred to him yesterday.
  4. Failure may be occurred during heating.
  5. Difficulties may be existed.
  6. Difficulties may arise.

Concern and involve

Whether or not they can be used in the passive depends on the meaning.

To involve has three meanings:

  1. To participate, to take part
  2. To include
  3. To require

Only the first meaning, to participate, to take part can be used in the passive form.

This week, students are involved in lab work.

The active voice must be used with the second meaning, to include.


He often involves his students in his research.

The active voice must also be used with the third meaning, to require.


The project involves buying new software.

Use the correct form of involve (active or passive) in the following sentences.

  1. Effective group leadership a variety of skills.
  2. A good leader all group members in decision making.
  3. All members of the group should in project planning.

Concerned about means 'worried about'. Concerned with means 'involved in'.

The passive voice can be used with both meanings.

Complete these sentences with the correct preposition (with or about) in the following sentences.

  1. The students are concerned their next assignment.
  2. Engineers nowadays are concerned the development of sustainable technology.
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