Passive Voice in English Grammar
Understanding the passive voice is important. The passive voice is used often by native English speakers. It's used both in formal and informal situations.
There are times when you don't want to say who or what did the action. Maybe you want to avoid the responsibility of telling who or what did something; or maybe you don't know who or what did the action; or the object of the sentence is actually the most important part of your utterance.
You can use the passive voice to change the focus of your sentence.
To understand the passive voice, first you need to know about the active voice.
Sarah eats the pizza .
This is an active sentence, cause the ''subject'' is clear at the beginning of the sentence.
Now imagine that you do not know who ate the pizza. In this case, you need to use the passive voice.
The pizza is eaten .
It is obvious that we do not know the doer of the action.
Passive Voice: Structure
Passive voice is constructed by the 'be verb + past participle'. To make a passive sentence we need to use the passive tense.
- Identify the subject, the verb and the object of the active sentence.
- Move the object to become the new subject of the sentence.
- Check the verb tense in the active sentence.
- Conjugate the verb 'be' so it is in the same tense as the tense in the active sentence.
- Add the past participle of the main verb and put it after the verb 'be'.
- Decide what to do with the subject of the active sentence.
Here we decided not to mention the subject at the end of the passive sentence.
The object of the active clause becomes the new subject of the passive sentence.
Passive Voice: Different Tenses
Passive Voice: Simple Tenses
Passive voice can be used with many tenses. For example with simple tenses like present simple tense, past simple tense and future simple tense.
To change the tense of a passive sentence, all you need to do is change the form of the verb 'be'. The main verb in a passive sentence is always in the past participle form.
|Present simple||past simple||Future simple|
|Active||I make it.||I made it.||I will make it.|
|Passive||It is made.||It was made.||It will be made.|
|Negation||It is not made.||It was not made.||It will not be made.|
|Question||Is it made?||Was it made?||Will it be made?|
Passive Voice: Continuous Tenses
To change the tense of a passive sentence in the continuous tense, you need to conjugate the verb 'be' in the continuous tense. The main verb in a passive sentence is always in the past participle form.
is/are → is/are being
was/were → was/were being
|Present continuous||Past continuous||Future continuous|
|Active||I am making it.||I was making it.||I will be making it.|
|Passive||It is being made.||It was being made.||It will be being made.|
|Negation||It is not being made.||It was not being made.||It will not be being made.|
|Question||Is it being made?||Was it being made?||Will it be being made?|
Passive Voice: Perfect Tenses
To change the tense of a passive sentence in the perfect tense, you need to conjugate the verb 'be' in the perfect tense.
have → have been
has → has been
|Present perfect||Past perfect||Future perfect|
|Active||I have made it.||I had made it.||I will have made it.|
|Passive||It has been made.||It had been made.||It will have been made.|
|Negation||It has not been made.||It had not been made.||It will not have been made.|
|Question||Has it been made?||Had it been made?||Will it have been made?|
Passive Voice: Perfect Continuous Tenses
To change the tense of a passive sentence in the perfect tense, you need to conjugate the verb 'be' in the perfect continuous tense.
have been → have been being
has been → has been being
Note that it is not common to make passive sentences in the present continuous tenses. So try to keep the sentences in these tenses active.
|Present perfect continuous||Past perfect continuous||Future perfect continuous|
|Active||I have been making it.||I had been making it.||I will have been making it.|
|Passive||It has been being made.||It had been being made.||It will have been being made.|
|Negation||It has not been being made.||It had been not being made.||It will not have been being made.|
|Question||Has it been being made?||Had it been being made?||Will it have been being made?|
the Preposition 'by'
In a passive sentence we should decide what to do with the subject. Of course in the passive voice we don't need to mention who or what did the action. But we can add the subject of the active sentence in the passive sentence with the preposition 'by'.
The subject of the active sentence is mentioned at the end of the passive clause.
We decided to mention the doer.
Passive Voice: Uses
Now let's see where we can use the passive voice.
- When we do not know who or what is the subject.
Somebody stole my car . → My car was stolen .
We do not know, who stole the car.
- When it is not important who or what did the action.
Somebody called an ambulance . → An ambulance was called .
It is not important, who called the ambulance.
- When it is obvious who or what is the doer of the action.
The waiter brought the menu . → The menu was brought .
We all know the waiter brings the menu in a restaurant.
- In newspaper articles and titles, for example in crime reports.
Somebody murdered a man . → A man was murdered .
It is a crime report.
- In scientific texts.
Carbon dioxide is produced during the processes of decay of organic materials .
It is a scientific text.
Not All Active Sentences Can Be Passive Ones
Remember that NOT all verbs in English take an object. So, some sentences are complete without an object. Therefore, you cannot make every active sentence into a passive one.
Transitive And Intransitive Verbs
Verbs that must have an object are called transitive, but verbs that do not need an object are intransitive.
''Sneeze'' is an intransitive verb that does not require an object at all.
''Flow'' is an intransitive verb that can not be put in passive form.
Same rule applies here.
The auxiliary verb 'do' and its other forms 'does' and 'did' do not appear in the passive sentences.