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C4. Planting potatoesCartoon illustration

past simple passive form

Alfred Briggs was a prisoner in a high security jail, serving a thirty year sentence. In his youth he had been famous for robbing jewellery stores all over the country. Even after he was arrested, tried and sentenced, Alfred had kept his secrets and no one had ever discovered where the jewels were hidden. He was married and his wife, Sally, sent him regular letters about everyday problems at home. Alfred knew for a fact that his letters were opened and read by the authorities, but still he enjoyed receiving the news from home.

One day Alfred was given a letter from his wife. He opened it and read,  'Dear Alfred, I've decided to plant some potatoes in the back garden near to the white fence. When do you think is the best time for potatoes to be planted?'
    Alfred wrote this in reply,  'Dear Sally, You can plant potatoes in two or three weeks' time, but whatever you do, don't plant them in the back garden. This is very important! Please don't plant them there!'
    A week later, Alfred was given another letter from his wife. 'Dear Alfred, You won't believe this! Last week ten policemen arrived at the house and dug up all of the back garden.'
    Alfred wrote back, ' Dear Sally, Now is the best time to plant potatoes.'

Grammar: past simple passive form

The past simple passive is formed with was / were + past participle.

You can use the passive form when you don't know who did an action or when the person who did the action is not the most important part of the sentence.

ACTIVE     Someone built this bridge last year.
PASSIVE    This bridge was built last year.

ACTIVE     Somebody sentenced the robbers to ten years in prison.
PASSIVE    The robbers were sentenced to ten years in prison.

Rewrite these sentences in the passive form (without including someone.)

1.  Someone gave Alfred a letter.
2. When does someone need to plant the potatoes?
3. Someone arrested Alfred for robbery.
4. Someone dug up the back garden.
5. Somebody always opened Alfred's letters to his wife.

Choose a verb from the box to complete these with a past simple passive form. Change a verb from the box.

send          give          write          dig          keep

6. I ordered a jacket online but I ___________ the wrong size.
7. The chickens ___________ in a large building at the back of the farm.
8. A large hole ___________ in the garden for the young tree.
9. What ______ you ______ for your birthday present last year?
10. The book ___________ more than fifty years ago.

Vocabulary exercises

Choose a word from the box to complete these sentences.

robbery          sentence          jail          secret          store

1.  The prisoner was sent to a high security _______.
2. After the trial, Fred Harris served a _______ of four years.
3. They were caught trying to rob a jewellery _______.
4. Don't tell him anything. He can't keep a _______.
5. Police say that two men were arrested for _______.

Choose the correct preposition to complete these sentences.

6. I know as / for / in a fact that this answer is wrong.
7. I'm going to visit my uncle in London in / at / to a few weeks' time.
8. Marie Knight is now 75 and retired, but of / with / in her youth she was a famous singer.
9. The city is famous at / in / for its beautiful buildings and parks.
10. I sent a letter to my friend Sam last month but he still hasn't written from / back / away.