Passive Voice: Definition
In the active voice, the subject of the sentence DOES the action:
- John painted the house last week.
Subject / verb / object
In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence RECEIVES the action.
- The house was painted last week.
Subject / verb
Passive Voice: Use
The passive voice is used when:
- We do not know who did the action
Example: The documents were stolen.
(we don’t know who stole the documents)
- The receiver of the action is more important
Example: The pyramids were built nearly 5,000 years ago by the ancient Egyptians.
(we want to emphasize “pyramids” more than “ancient Egyptians”)
Passive Voice: Form
To change an active voice sentence to a passive voice sentence:
- Make the object of the active sentence into the subject of the passive sentence.
- Use the verb “to be” in the same tense as the main verb of the active sentence.
- Use the past participle of the main verb of the active sentence.
Here are some active and passive voice examples to help!
- Active: People drink champagne on New Year’s Eve.
Passive: Champagne is drunk on New Year’s Eve.
- Active: Chefs use these machines to mix the ingredients.
Passive: These machines are used to mix the ingredients.
- Active: They renovated the restaurant in 2004.
Passive: The restaurant was renovated in 2004.
- Active: The teachers informed the students that the class had been cancelled.
Passive: The students were informed that the class had been cancelled.
Passive Voice: Present
In the present, the passive voice uses the verbs is and are + past participle of the main verb.
The passive voice present is often used to describe:
First the apples are picked, then they are cleaned, and finally they’re packed and shipped to the market.
- General thoughts, opinions, and beliefs
New York is considered the most diverse city in the U.S.
It is believed that Amelia Earhart’s plane crashed in Pacific Ocean.
Hungarian is seen as one of the world’s most difficult languages to learn.
Skin cancers are thought to be caused by excessive exposure to the sun.
Passive Voice: Past
In the past, the passive voice uses the verbs was and were + past participle of the main verb.
The passive voice past is often used to describe:
- Events in history
George Washington was elected president in 1788.
- Crimes / Accidents
Two people were killed in a drive-by shooting on Friday night.
Ten children were injured when part of the school roof collapsed.
Quiz: Passive Voice Exercises - Present and Past