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11 fun passive voice games

By Alex Case
Stimulating classroom practice for be + past participle, including passive voice communication games

Passive voice sentences like “It is made of steel” and “It was invented in China” can make it seem like a very dry, boring grammar point, but in fact there are so many possible entertaining activities for this point that this article could only include the best few!

Passive voice guessing games

Students listen to hints like “It was invented by Alexander Graham Bell” and “In Victorian times, it was hung on the wall” and try to guess what is being described. They can then make up similar hints for their partners. This works for almost any topic, for example:

  • inventions/ technology
  • transport
  • food and drink
  • things specific to their country (local clothes, etc)
  • social issues
  • classroom objects
  • animals
  • the environment
  • countries
  • medical topics
  • history
  • business

These topics also work for most of the games below.

Passive voice description competitions

This is like the opposite of the game above. One student chooses one thing to describe, e.g. a local food that foreign people often don’t know, and the other students compete to make the clearest explanation in as few sentences as possible. Passive voice should come up naturally, or you could only allow passive sentences.

Passive voice quizzes

Students try to answer trivia questions in the passive voice like “Which country is most tuna exported from?” and “Where were books first printed?”, perhaps with multiple-choice options to choose from. They then make up similar questions for each other, allowing internet research, giving them suggested topics and/ or giving them suggested verbs if they need help.

Passive voice number quizzes

If you also want to practise the important topic of pronouncing numbers, you can also add these with questions like “How many Sinclair C5s were sold?”. This works best with the person who has the answer giving hints like “Much more” and “Slightly less” until someone guesses exactly the right number.

Passive voice presentations challenge

Students imagine a new product (either totally new or an improvement on something that exists), decide how to describe it with attractive-sounding passive sentences like “It is used by Queen Elizabeth”, then try to sell it to someone else with a short presentation. If you want to score, you could give points for:

  • passive voice sentences that no other group came up with
  • passive sentences that other people agree sound attractive
  • passive voice questions when they hear other people’s presentations
  • being voted the most popular product in the class.

For more past passive, they could also try to sell a (true or made-up) antique to a museum or collector.

Passive voice bluffing games

Lying games with this grammar include:

  • describing a thing with a mix of true and false passive voice sentences, and the other person trying to spot the false description(s)
  • describing things they know and things they don’t know with passive voice, then the other person working out if they really knew what each thing was

Students will probably need suggested verbs, sentence stems, etc to help make up their descriptions.

Passive voice board games

Make a board game with one thing that can be described with passive voice in each square, e.g. “chocolate” in the first square and “solar panels” in the second. Students move around the board (without a dice) by how good their descriptions with passive voice are. For very controlled practice, you can make each correct description with passive voice one point (stopping when they make a mistake with the language or say something that isn’t true). For freer practice, ask them to speak about it for as long as they can, with one point for every 15 seconds of speaking (minus time off for silence). They can then move on one square for each point they got (up to a maximum of six squares).

Passive voice dominoes

Make around 15 to 20 true passive sentences in a mix of tenses (“The temperature of the world will probably have risen by over three degrees by…” etc). Split the sentences so that each one can only be put with its other half, with the other possible matches being wrong due to a mix of grammatical and factual reasons. Make domino cards with the end of one sentence on the left and the beginning of a different sentence on the right of each, organised so that they will make a big circle if they are put together correctly. Students work together to use their language and factual knowledge to put them all together, then can play a more competitive game more like actual dominoes.

Passive voice storytelling activities

Students take turns continuing a story about the history of an object such as what happened to Einstein’s brain after his death or the history of a historic house. As with these examples, these will need to be things that people do stuff to, not something more active like a pet or robot.

Passive voice random pelmanism

Students pick two things and try to make a passive voice sentence that no one has used in the game before that is true for both like “They are both used by humans” and “They were already used in the stone age”. If their partners accept that, they get one point and those two things are out of the game. This can be played with a worksheet, with cards spread across the table face up, or (for most fun and challenge) with cards spread face down.

Passive voice sentence completion games (bluff, things in common and guessing)

Give students partial passive sentences which they could fill with personal information like “I was _______________ last year” and “My favourite team is regularly _________________”. These can be used for a bluffing game, for finding things in common with each other, or for a guessing game (reading out just the part they wrote for their partner to add to the correct sentence).

Written by Alex Case for Tefl.NET April 2023
Alex Case is the author of TEFLtastic and the Teaching...: Interactive Classroom Activities series of business and exam skills e-books for teachers
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