English Grammar: The Passive Voice

Passive Voice is a structure we use in English where the subject becomes the object.

Passive Voice in English – Video

Reasons for using the Passive Voice

1.   Passive voice is used when the agent (doer of an action) is obvious, unknown, or unnecessary.

a.   Oranges are grown in California.

b.  Toyotas are made in Japan.

c.   Her purse was stolen.

2.   Passive voice is used when the agent is known, but the speaker/writer does not want to mention it.

a.   She was given bad advice.

b.  A mistake has been made.

3.   Passive voice is often used when the agent is very general such as people or somebody.

a.   English is spoken here.

b.  The door should be locked at all times.

4.  Passive voice is used when the speaker/writer wants to emphasize a result or emphasize the receiver of the action instead of the performer.

a.   Seven thousand people were killed by the earthquake

·The earthquake killed 7,000 people.

b.  The professor was hit by three snowballs.

·Three snowballs hit the professor.

Using the Passive Voice with Different Tenses

English Grammar: The Passive Voice

English Grammar: The Passive Voice

English Grammar: The Passive Voice

Passive Voice Rules

  • In the passive voice, third form of the verb is used.
  • Take care of singular and plural nature of nouns or pronouns. Verb/helping verb requires to be adjusted accordingly.
  • Interrogative sentences beginning with ‘wh’ words like what, why, when etc. the  question word is retained in the beginning of the sentence.  An interrogative sentence in the active voice remains an interrogative in the passive form.
  • An imperative sentence is a sentence showing order, or request. So, accordingly, in the passive voice, we say: You are requested/ordered/advised + infinitive with ‘to’.
  • Sentences involving order/advice are preferably changed into passive by using the word ‘let’ or ‘should’. Please close the door. You are requested to close the door. Save your soul. Your soul should be saved. Let your soul be saved. Do it. Let it be done. It should be done.
  • In some sentence the subject is understood type. Here the subject has to be supplied according to the context while changing them into active form. The thief was arrested. (by the police.)
  • Preposition attached with the verbs in the active form continue to be attached with them even in the passive form. Please listen to him. You are requested to listen to him. He turned down my proposal. My proposal was tuned down by him.k
  • In the case of a verb having two objects in Active Voice, either of them can be retained in the passive. Hari gave me an apple. I was given an apple by Hari. An apple was given to me by Hari.
  •   Intransitive verbs do not have passive forms.  I go to school. Go is intransitive verb. So no passive form.
  • What is done, cannot be undone. What people do, they cannot undo.
  • Quasi Passive Verbs: The rose smells sweet. The rose is sweet when smelt. Quinine tastes bitter. Quinine is bitter when tasted. Lemons taste sour. Lemons are sour when tasted.
  • With some verbs, preposition ‘by’ is not used. Like know (to), surprise (at), annoy (with), contain (in), vex (with), please (with), displease (at), alarm (at), line (with), throng (with).


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