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Practical English Usage says:

A few verbs that are followed by infinitives (for example decide, agree) can also be used in passive structures beginning with it.

They decided to meet at twelve. -> It was decided to meet at twelve.

We agreed to open a new branch. -> It was agreed to open a new branch.

However, most verbs cannot be used in this way.

NOT: it is started to make a profit. or it is not expected to rain today.

'a few verbs' and 'most verbs' are ambiguous. I don't know which verbs belong to 'a few verbs'.

So when exactly can I use the passive structure: it + be + past participle + infinitive?

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    I doubt there’s any more pattern to share with you than that you can when you can and you can’t when you can’t. But none of it is ironclad though. For me, and despite Practical English Usage, there’s nothing wrong with It is not expected to rain today. Nov 25, 2023 at 22:17
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    It's thought to be a potentially long list (at least by this thinker! :) Nov 25, 2023 at 22:58
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    I'd be completely OK with saying/writing 'it is not expected to rain today'. Nov 26, 2023 at 0:37
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    So would the The Tampa Bay Times: It is not expected to rain today, and the temperature should peak in the upper 80s before dropping as low as the upper 60s overnight. Nov 26, 2023 at 0:38
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    Yorkshire weather forecast: Yorkshire Post 1 Sept 2022 — It is expected to rain today Nov 26, 2023 at 0:39

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The impersonal passive

The impersonal passive is used with reporting verbs such as allege, believe, claim, consider, estimate, expect, know, report, say, think, understand, etc. It reports what an unspecified group of people say or believe. [bolding mine+ decide and agree]

The impersonal passive has two forms:

it + be + past participle + (that) + subject + verb:

It is estimated that millions of people visit the site every year. It is believed that the walls date from the third century BCE. It is reported that mosquitoes transmit the disease.

someone/something + be + past participle + infinitive:

Millions of people are estimated to visit the site every year. The walls are believed to date from the third century BCE. Mosquitoes are reported to transmit the disease.

Note that the infinitive can be simple (as above), perfect (for a past action) or continuous (for an action in progress).

Millions are estimated to visit the site this year. (simple infinitive) The walls are believed to have been built in the third century BCE. (perfect infinitive) Mosquitoes are reported to be transmitting the disease. (continuous infinitive)

advanced passive review from the British Council

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