Active and passive voice refer to the form of a verb. In the active, the subject of the verb is person or thing doing the action:
Ana ate all apples last night.We haven\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'t got any left.
Other typical active verb forms are: drinks, drunk, will drink.
In the passive voice the action is done to the subject.
The milk was eaten last night.
The passive occurs very commonly in English: it is not merely an alternative to the active but it has its own distinctive use. It is very important in the English language and it is used more in the spoken English than in the written. The passive occurs only with verbs used transitively, that is, verbs that can be followed by an object.
Active: Someone found this wallet in the street.
Passive: This wallet was found in the street.
The passive voice is used:
-when the doer of the action is unknown
-when the doer of the action is self-evident
-when the doer of the action is not important
-when we don’t want to mention the doer of the action
-when we want to stress the doer of the action and in that case the doer takes an end-position and it is usually within the by-phrase
The formula for the constructing the passive voice is:
Verb BE + verbs (in –ed form, or past participial form if the verb is irregular)
-Past participial form does not necessarily refer to past tense, it can also be used for perfective tenses (He has left). Rules that apply to the use of tenses in active also apply in the passive.
-The passive can refer to things and people:
A letter was written.
Smith was sent to California for a year by the executive.
-Verbs like bring and give are ditransitive, which means that they can have two objects, direct and indirect object: Tom gave me (indirect object) a pen (direct object). These verbs can have two passive forms:
A pen was given to me by Tom.
I was given a pen by Tom.
We are often more interested in people than things so personal subject is more common in these cases. So, I was given is more likely to occur than A pen was given.
-A small number of verbs are used more frequently in the passive than in active: be born, be married, be obliged.
I was born in 1990.
I am not obliged to work overtime if I don’t want to.
-Adverbs of manner can occur before or after the participle:
The room has been badly painted/ painted badly.
The use of the passive
In spoken English, passive occurs naturally and spontaneously. The speaker is usually not conscious of the change from “active” to “passive”.
The passive is deliberately chosen in preference to the active, especially when speakers do not wish to commit themselves to actions, opinions which they are not certain about:
This problem will be dealt with as soon as possible.
Thousands of books are published every year.
1) We use passive when we wish to focus on a happening which is more important to us
than who or what causes the happening- or when there is simply no need to mention the doer of the action at all.
Our roof was damaged in the last night’s storm.
In the above example we are interested in what happened to the roof, rather than who did it because it is obvious from the context. This is why the passive is so often used in technical and scientific texts.
2) We use passive when the subject of the active verb is: people, they, one, somebody etc.
In this case, by is not expressed.
I was informed about it. (They informed me about it.)
It is supposed that John will see her today . (People suppose that...)
3) When we don’t know, or don’t know exactly, who did the action:
My car has been stolen.
They have been robbed!
4) For stylistic reasons when we want to avoid an awkward change of subject in the
middle of a sentence:
He played the concerto very well and was praised by critics.
( He played well and critics praised him.)
5) In official statements when we wish to make them sound impersonal (perhaps out of
modesty) or when we don’t want to assume responsibility:
The form has to be signed immediately.
The damages are to be paid by the end of the month.
Passengers are requested to leave their luggage.
By is used only when we want to state who or what is reposnsible for some event.
The window was broken by a slate that fell off the roof.
By is also often used with the passive forms of the following verbs: build, compose, damage, design, destroy, discover, invent, make and write.
St. Paul’s was designed by Christopher Wren.
6) Sometimes both active and passive forms are possible. Which form will be used
depends on the focus of interest:
Manchester City beat Arsenal yesterday.
Arsenal was beaten by Manchester United yesterday.
The landlord evicted the tenant for not paying his rent.
The tenant was evicted by the landlord for not paying his rent.
HOW DO WE MAKE PASSIVE
Present Simple Tense in the Passive Voice
The general rule to make the passive voice:
You need the suitable tense of the verb to be + past participle of the main verb. Suitable means that if the tense in the sentence is for example Present Simple tense then the verb to be will also be in Present Simple tense. (is, are)
ACTIVE: Every day I send one letter to her.
PASSIVE: Every day the letter is sent to her (by me.)
Is - suitable form of the verb to be
Sent – past participle
When we analyze the active sentence we see that I is the subject (the doer of the action), send is verb referring to the action and the letter is object (the thing that endures the action.) We make passive voice in the way that we take OBJECT of the active sentence and make it subject of the passive sentence: The letter is sent.
Present Continuous Tense in the Passive Voice
Suitable form of the verb to be (in this case present continuous form: am being, are being, is being) + past participle
ACTIVE: I am reading the book.
PASSIVE: The book is being read by me.
ACTIVE: She is washing her car.
PASSIVE: The car is being washed (by her.)
ACTIVE: Be careful! I am watching you.
PASSIVE: I have to be careful, I am being watched!
Present Perfect Tense in the Passive Voice
to be (in present perfect tense: have been, has been) + past participle of the main verb
ACTIVE: I have broken my leg.
PASSIVE: My leg has been broken.
As we can see in these examples we have to be careful with the person, in the active the subject is I which requires have while in the second sentence the subject is now different (my leg), it is in third person, not the first, and the third person (he, she, it) requires has not have.
Past Simple Tense in the Passive Voice
to be (was, were) + past participle of the main verb
ACTIVE: She wrote a letter.
PASSIVE: The letter was written.
ACTIVE: She gave us some very important information.
PASSIVE: We were given some very important information (by her.)
Past Continuous Tense in the Passive Voice
to be (was being, were being) + past participle of the main verb
ACTIVE: I was watching TV all night long.
PASSIVE: The TV was being watched all night long (by me.)
Past Perfect Tense in the Passive Voice
to be (had been) + past participle of the main verb
ACTIVE: Peter has stolen some money from me before he died.
PASSIVE: The money had been stolen from me by Peter before he died.
Future Tense in the Passive Voice
will be + past participle of the main verb
is/ are going to + past participle of the main verb
ACTIVE: I will send some letters tomorrow morning.
PASSIVE: The letters will be sent tomorrow morning.
ACTIVE: I’m going to read the article in a minute.
PASSIVE: The article is going to be read in a minute.
The usage of the Passive Voice with a subject it
This form of passive is usually used with verbs like say, believe, explain, suspect, expected, think, feel, assume ...etc.
Everyone believed that he is honest and reliable.
People thought that the sea level was rising.
People expected that all the passengers had died in the crash.
It is believed that he is honest and reliable.
It is thought that the sea level was rising.
It is expected that all the passengers had died in the crash.
He is believed to be honest and reliable.
The sea level was thought to be rising.
All the passengers were expected to have died in the crash.
The use of “by” etc + agent after passive
An agent is a “doer” of the action or thing that performs the action indicated by the verb. By + agent in passive constructions tells us who or what did something:
The window was broken by the boy who lives opposite.
The window was broken by a stone.
By + agent is only necessary when the speaker wants to say who or what is responsible for the event in question. The position of by + agent at the end of a clause or sentence gives it a particular emphasis:
The window was broken by a skate that fell off the roof.
By + agent is often used with the passive of verbs like build, compose, damage, design, destroy, discover, invent, make, wreck and write. It often happens that subject-question in active is answered by a passive, so that the important information is being emphasized by being at the end:
Who composed that piece? –It was composed by Mozart.
Who destroyed the village? –It was destroyed by a bomb.
- Verbs tenses
- Present Tenses
- Present Simple Tense
- Present Continous Tense
- Present Perfect Tense
- Present Perfect Continuous Tense
- Past Tenses
- Past Simple Tense
- Past Continuous (Progressive) Tense
- Past Perfect Tense
- Future Tenses
- The Simple Future Tense
- Future Continuous Tense
- Future Perfect Tense
- Future Perfect Continous Tense
- Stative and dynamic verbs
- Transitive and intransitive verbs
- Reflexive verbs
- Full verbs and auxiliary verbs
- Modal verbs
- Indirect speech