For today’s mini lesson, let’s talk about the passive infinitive. The passive infinitive is ‘be + past participle’. We can use it in the same places as the normal infinitive to show a passive meaning.
We can use the passive infinitive after verbs that usually take ‘to + infinitive‘.
- Normal infinitive: I want to watch (= I am the person who watches).
- Passive infinitive: I want to be watched (= I want someone else to watch me).
- Normal infinitive: They hope to drive to London (they will drive).
- Passive infinitive: They hope to be driven to London (they hope that someone else will drive).
We can use the passive infinitive after modal verbs.
- He might give a present (= he’s the one who gives the present).
- He might be given a present (= someone else gives the present).
- She could employ an assistant (= she is the one who employs the assistant).
- She could be employed as an assistant (= someone else employs her).
In all of the examples with the passive infinitive, we can add the person who does the action with ‘by‘.
- I want to be watched by my mother.
- They hope to be driven to London by John.
- He might be given a present by his wife.
- She could be employed as an assistant by the Prime Minister.
We often use the passive infinitive with a modal verb when the subject is not a person.
- The doors must be locked at night.
- These curtains need to be washed.
- Cars should not be parked in the street