Sentences can be active or passive. Mostly we use active sentences in our conversation, but sometimes we have to use passive sentences. Here in this article we will discuss about active and passive voice and when to use passive sentences, but initially you have to know what is voice and difference between active voice and passive voice.
Note: If you want to know how to change active voice into passive voice, you must have mastery over 12 tenses in English, if you have problem in 12 tenses in , we recommend you to click here and review the 12 tenses.
Active and Passive Voice
Voice: Voice is the term used to describe whether a verb is active or passive in active and passive voice.
Active Voice: A sentence which begins with the performer of the action (subject), then the verb,then the object or person that the action is performed on. This is called an active sentence.
- Ali Washed the dishes.
Sub + Verb + Object.
Passive Voice: A sentence which begins with the object or person that the action is performed on is called passive sentence.
- The dishes were washed (by Ali.)
Object + verb + (by subject)
When Should we use the Passive Voice?
1. When we do not know who the subject is, or it is not important who the subject is.
- Somebody cleaned the room. (Active) The room was cleaned. (Passive)
2. When it is obvious to the listener or reader who the subject is because it is the person who usually does it.
- The cleaner cleaned the room. (Active) The room was cleaned. (Passive)
3. When we give more importance to the object of the sentences rather than the subject, we use passive voice.
- The glasses were broken. (We give importance to the object not to the subject)
How to Change active sentence into passive sentence? Follow the steps below.
1. Put the object of the verb at the beginning of your sentence.
2. Conjugate the verb’to be’ (using different form of to be verb) in the same tense as the active sentence.
3. Put the main verb in the Past Participle form.
- The postman delivers the mail. (Active) The mail is delivered. (Passive)
- The decorator is painting my room. (Active) My room is being painted. (Passive)
- Someone stole the money. (Active) The money was stolen. (Passive)
Present Simple Tense
|He sings a song.|
He does not sing a song.
Does he sing a song?
|A song is sung by him.|
A song is not sung by him.
Is a song sung by him?
|I am writing a letter|
I am not writing a letter.
Am I writing a letter?
|A letter is being written by me.|
A letter is not being written by me.
Is a letter being written by me?
|She has finished her work|
She has not finished her work.
Has she finished her work?
|Her work has been finished by her.|
Her work has not been finished by her.
Has her work been finished by her?
|Present Perfect Continuous||I have been doing it.||(Not common/ Not changeable)|
Past Simple Tense
|I killed a snake|
I did not kill a snake.
Did I kill a snake?
|A snake was killed by me.|
A snake was not killed by me.
Was a snake killed by me?
|He was driving a car.|
He was not driving a car.
Was he driving a car?
|A car was being driven by him.|
A car was not being driven by him.
Was a car being driven by him?
|They had completed the assignment.|
They had not completed the assignment.
Had they completed the assignment?
|The assignment had been completed|
The assignment had not been complete by them.
Had the assignment been completed?
Past Perfect Continuous
|She had been teaching since 2013.||(Not common/ Not changeable)|
Future Simple Tense
| She will buy a car.|
She will not buy a car.
Will she buy a car?
| A car will be bought by her.|
A car will not be bought by her.
Will a car be bought by her?
|Future Continuous||John will be washing the dishes.||(Not common/ Not changeable)|
|You will have started the job.|
You will have not started the job.
Will you have started the job?
|The job will have been started.|
The job will not have been started by you.
Will the job have been started?
|Future Perfect Continuous||They will have been teaching a lesson.||(Not common/ Not changeable)|
Future Going To
|She is going to make a beautiful dinner tonight.||A beautiful dinner is going to be made.|
Note 1: If you want to mention the subject in a passive sentence, use ‘by’, though its optional.
- My room is being painted by the decorator.
Note 2: If the active sentence begins with ‘no-one’ or ‘nobody’ the passive sentence will be negative.
- No-one turned on the light. (Active) The light was not turned on. (Passive)
Note 3: If there is a preposition between the verb and the object, the preposition will remain after the verb
- They talked about the issue. (Active) The issue was talked about. (Passive)
Note 4: Intransitive verbs cannot be changed into passive voice.
- Ali slept well.
- Hussain lives far away.
The Passive Voice of Other Structures
Have to/ Used to / Gerund
- They have to play the match. (Active) The match has to be done. (Passive)
- I used to do it. (Active) It used to be done. (Passive)
- I don’t mind teaching them. (Active) They don’t mind being taught. (Passive)
Person in object position: Some sentences have both an object and a person in the object position. You can choose either one to formulate the passive sentence.
- I gave him five rupees. (Active) Five rupees were given to him/ He was given five rupees. (Passive)
- They have sent us a copy. (Active ) We have been sent a copy/ A copy has been sent to us. (Passive)
Passive Voice of Modal Verbs (can, may, should, might etc)
- They can solve the paper. (Active) The paper can be solved. (passive)
The Active and Passive Voice of WH. Questions:
- What do you know about the lesson? (Active) What is known about the lesson? (Passive)
- Where did you put the book? (Active) Where was the book put? (Passive)
- Who broke the vase? (Active) By whom was the vase broken? (Passive)
- Why did the visitors park the car here? (Active) Why is this car parked here? (Passive)
- How did you finish the work? (Active) How was the work finished? (Passive)
- Whose hat did someone leave at your home? (Active) Whose hat was left at your home? (Passive)
Passive Voice of Imperative Sentences:
- Drop the knife. (Active) Let the gun be dropped. (Passive)
- Open the door. (Active) Let the door be opened. (Passive)
Verbs which can’t be used in the passive
Most verbs can be changed from the active to the passive. If the verb can be followed by a direct object it can be made passive.
- We tested the materials. (the verb is followed by direct object)
- The materials were tested. (Passive)
Some verbs which can be used in the active are: occur, rise, happen arise, fall, exist, contain (of), depend (on), result (from) and lack.
- Problems may occur. (Active) Problems may be occurred. (Passive incorrect)
Verbs which are always passive
Some verbs are used almost exclusively in the passive voice:
- He was born into a wealthy family.
- when your order is shipped, we will send you a confirmation e-mail.
- The victims were hospitalized immediately.
- The room was strewn with books and magazines.
- The area is mainly populated by families with small children.
Note the position of the adverb of manner. (well) in the passive voice.
- We’ll look after you well. (Active) You will be well looked after. (Passive)
In the Passive Voice, the following verbs to believe, to consider, to say, to think and to suppose must be built with an infinitive clause.
- People believe he is a spy. (Active) He is believed to be a spy. (Passive)
- They said he is a good candidate. (Active) He was said to be a good candidate. (Passive)
- People consider he was a good President. (Active) He is considered to have been a good President. (Passive)
A particular structure : to make somebody do something changes constructions in the passive : to make somebody do something has to become to be made TO do something.
- The teacher made us work very hard before the exam. (Active)
- We were made TO work very hard before the exam. (Passive)
We have tried to include here all necessary rules about active and passive voice, hope this will help and benefit you and in order to get mastery over active and passive voice, you need to practice a lot to change active sentences into passive.
Would you like to know more about active and passive voice? Check out the useful articles below:
- How to Change Active Sentences to Passive Sentences
- Active and Passive Voice of Conditional Clauses
- Passive Voice of Modal Auxiliaries
- Active and Passive Voice of All Tenses
- Active and Passive Voice of Simple Present Tense
- Present Continuous Tense Active and Passive
- Active and Passive Voice of Present Perfect Tense
- Active And Passive Voice of Present Perfect Continuous
- Future Perfect Tense Active and Passive
- Active and Passive Voice of Simple Past Tense
- Active and Passive Voice of Past Continuous Tense
- Past Perfect Continuous Tense Active and Passive Voice
- Active and Passive Voice of Past Perfect Tense
- Active and Passive Voice of Simple Future Tense
- Future Perfect Continuous Tense Active And Passive
- Active and Passive Voice of Future Continuous Tense