Passive Voice

Passive voice is formed by…

Subject + finite form of to be + Past Participle (3rd column of irregular verbs)

When rewriting active sentences in passive voice, note the following:

  • the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence
  • the finite form of the verb is changed (to be + past participle)
  • the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is dropped)

Remember passive voice is used when the focus is on the action. It is not important or not known, however, who or what is performing the action.  In the example My bike was stolen, the focus is on the fact that my bike was stolen. I do not know, however, who did it.

Sometimes a statement in passive is more polite than active voice, as the following example shows, A mistake was made. In this case, I focus on the fact that a mistake was made, but I do not blame anyone (e.g. You have made a mistake.).

Overview of Active/ Passive examples…

Active Passive
Simple Present Once a week, Tom cleans the house. Once a week, the house is cleaned by Tom.
Present Continuous Right now, Sarah is writing the letter. Right now, the letter is being written by Sarah.
Simple Past Sam repaired the car. The car was repaired by Sam.
Past Continuous The salesman was helping the customer when the thief came into the store. The customer was being helped by the salesman when the thief came into the store.
Present Perfect Many tourists have visited that castle. That castle has been visited by many tourists.
Present Perfect Continuous Recently, John has been doing the work. Recently, the work has been being done by John.
Past Perfect George had repaired many cars before he received his mechanic’s license. Many cars had been repaired by George before he received his mechanic’s license.
Past Perfect Continuous Chef Jones had been preparing the restaurant’s fantastic dinners for two years before he moved to Paris. The restaurant’s fantastic dinners had been being prepared by Chef Jones for two years before he moved to Paris.
Simple Future
will
Someone will finish the work by 5:00 PM. The work will be finished by 5:00 PM.
Simple Future
be going to
Sally is going to make a beautiful dinner tonight. A beautiful dinner is going to be made by Sally tonight.
Future Perfect
will
They will have completed the project before the deadline. The project will have been completed before the deadline.
Used to Jerry used to pay the bills. The bills used to be paid by Jerry.
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This entry was posted in Face2face Intermediate, Grammar, Lesson 8, Speak Out Intermediate, Textbook, Unit 9. Bookmark the permalink.

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