Passive Voice (Lesson + exercise)

Use of Passive

  • We use passive voice when the focus is on the action, or the doer is not important or not known, or who or what is performing the action.

Example: The trees were planted.

In the example above, the focus is on the fact that The trees were planted. I do not know, however, who did it. Sometimes a statement in passive is more polite than active voice, as the following example shows:

Example: A mistake was made.

In this case, the focus is on the fact that a mistake was made, but we do not blame anyone (e.g. You have made a mistake.).

  • We also use passive voice to avoid responsibility. as the example below:

Example: The window was broken.

Even though I broke the window but I avoid responsibility by using the passive voice.

Form of Passive

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

Example: A man was killed.

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

  1. the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence
  2. the finite form of the verb is changed (to be + past participle)
  3. the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is omitted)

Examples of Passive

TensesSubjectVerbObject
Simple PresentActive:Hibawritesa story
Passive:A storyis written(by Hiba.)
Present ContinousActive:Hibais writinga story
Passive:A storyis being written(by Hiba.)
Present PerfectActive:Hibahas writtena story
Passive:A storyhas been written(by Hiba.)
Present Perfect ContinousActive:Hibahas been writinga story
Passive:A storyhas been being written(by Hiba.)
Simple PastActive:Hibawrotea story
Passive:A storywas written(by Hiba.)
Past ContinousActive:Hibawas writinga story
Passive:A storywas being written(by Hiba.)
Past PerfectActive:Hibahad writtena story
Passive:A storyhad been writtena story
Past Perfect ContinousActive:Hibahad been writing(by Hiba.)
Passive:A storyhad been being written(by Hiba.)
Modal VerbsActive:Hibawill write
must write
have to write
a story
Passive:A storywill be written
must be written
have to be written
(by Hiba.)

Passive Sentences with Two Objects

Rewriting an active sentence with two objects in passive voice means that one of the two objects becomes the subject, the other one remains an object. Which object to transform into a subject depends on what you want to put the focus on.

 subjectverbObject 1Object 2
Active:Theygavehima book
Passive:Hewas givenabook(by them.)
Passive:A bookwas givento him(by them.)

As you can see in the examples, adding by them does not sound very elegant. That’s why it is usually dropped.

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