Passive voice

Grammar in use

  • Topic : Passive voice
  • Skills : Grammar


What is the passive voice?

We use the passive voice when we are interested in the object or when we do not know who caused the action.

The passive voice is a grammatical construction that emphasizes the object of an action rather than the subject. It is formed by using a form of the verb “to be” followed by the past participle of the main verb.

For example, let’s take the sentence “John ate the apple.”
In the active voice, “John” is the subject and “the apple” is the object.

To change this sentence to the passive voice, we would switch the positions of the subject and the object,
and use the appropriate form of “to be” and the past participle of “eat”:
“The apple was eaten by John.”

In the passive voice, “the apple” becomes the subject, and “was eaten” is the passive form of “ate.”
“By John” indicates who performed the action, but is not necessary in every passive sentence.

The passive voice is often used when the focus of the sentence is on the object rather than the subject.
It can also be used to avoid assigning blame or to sound more formal.

It’s important to note that not every sentence can be changed to the passive voice.
Intransitive verbs (verbs that don’t take a direct object) and some verbs with two objects cannot be used in the passive voice.
We can only form a passive sentence from an active sentence when there is an object in the active sentence.

How to make the Passive in English

Present simpleThe dog chases the cat. The cat is chased by the dog.
Present continuousShe is drinking a cup of coffee. A cup of coffee is being drunk by her.
Past simpleHe wrote a novel. A novel was written by him.
Past continuousThey were watching a movie.A movie was being watched by them.
Present perfectI have eaten lunch. Lunch has been eaten by me.
Present perfect continuousShe has been studying for two hours. Studying has been being done by her for two hours.
Past perfectHe had finished the project before the deadline. The project had been finished by him before the deadline.
Future simpleThey will complete the task tomorrow. The task will be completed by them tomorrow.
Future perfectWe will have finished the work by 5 pm. The work will have been finished by us by 5 pm.
ModalsWe must attend the meeting tomorrow morning.The meeting must be attended by us tomorrow morning.

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