7. Active voice
In most English sentences with an action verb, the subject performs the action denoted
by the verb.
These examples show that the subject is doing the verb's action.
Because the subject does or "acts upon" the verb in such sentences, the sentences are said to be in
the active voice.
8. Passive voice
One can change the normal word order of many active sentences (those with a direct
object) so that the subject is no longer active, but is, instead, being acted upon by the
verb - or passive.
Note in these examples how the subject-verb relationship has changed.
Because the subject is being "acted upon" (or is passive), such sentences are said to
be in the passive voice.
NOTE: Colorful parrots live in the rainforests cannot be changed to passive voice
because the sentence does not have a direct object.
9. To change a sentence from active to
passive voice, do the following:
1. Move the active sentence's direct object into the sentence's
10. 2. Place the active sentence's subject into a phrase beginning with
the prepositional phrase by
11. 3. Add a form of the auxiliary verb be to the main verb and change
the main verb's form
12. The active voice is the "normal" voice. This is the voice that we use most
of the time. You are probably already familiar with the active voice. In
the active voice, the object receives the action of the verb:
active subject verb object
Cats eat fish.
13. The passive voice is less usual. In the passive voice, the subject receives
the action of the verb:
passive subject verb object
Fish are eaten by cats.
14. subject verb object
active Everybody drinks water.
passive Water is drunk by everybody.
The object of the active verb becomes the subject of the passive verb:
15. Use of the Passive Voice
We use the passive when:
we want to make the active object more important
we do not know the active subject
SUBJECT VERB OBJECT
was killed by Lee Harvey
My wallet has been
Note that we always use by to introduce the passive
object (Fish are eaten by cats).
16. Passive voice is used when the focus is on the action.
It is not important or not known, however, who or what is performing
Example: My bike was stolen.
In the example above, the focus is on the fact that my bike was stolen.
I do not know, however, who did it.
17. Conjugation for the Passive Voice
We can form the passive in any tense. In fact, conjugation of verbs in the passive
tense is rather easy, as the main verb is always in past participle form and the
auxiliary verb is always be. To form the required tense, we conjugate the auxiliary
verb. So, for example:
present simple: It is made
present continuous: It is being made
present perfect: It has been made
18. infinitive to be washed
simple present It is washed.
past It was washed.
future It will be washed.
conditional It would be washed.
continuous present It is being washed.
past It was being washed.
future It will be
conditional It would be
perfect simple present It has been washed.
past It had been washed.
future It will have
conditional It would have
perfect continuous present It has been
past It had been
future It will have been
conditional It would have been
Here are some examples with most of the possible tenses:
19. Tense Subject Verb Object
Simple Present Active: Rita writes a letter.
Passive: A letter is written by Rita.
Simple Past Active: Rita wrote a letter.
Passive: A letter was written by Rita.
Active: Rita has written a letter.
Passive: A letter has been written by Rita.
Future I Active: Rita will write a letter.
Passive: A letter will be written by Rita.
Active: Rita can write a letter.
Passive: A letter can be written by Rita.
Tense Subject Verb Object
Active: Rita is writing a letter.
Passive: A letter is being written by Rita.
Active: Rita was writing a letter.
Passive: A letter was being written by Rita.
Past Perfect Active: Rita had written a letter.
Passive: A letter had been written by Rita.
Future II Active: Rita will have written a letter.
Passive: A letter will have been written by Rita.
Conditional I Active: Rita would write a letter.
Passive: A letter would be written by Rita.
Conditional II Active: Rita would have written a letter.
Passive: A letter would have been written by Rita.
20. Passive Sentences with Two Objects
Subject Verb Object 1 Object 2
Active: Rita wrote a letter to me.
Passive: A letter was written to me by Rita.
Passive: I was written a letter by Rita.
22. Active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action
stated by the verb.
In passive voice sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb.
Harry ate six shrimp at dinner. (active)
At dinner, six shrimp were eaten by Harry. (passive)
Beautiful giraffes roam the savannah. (active)
The savannah is roamed by beautiful giraffes. (passive)
Sue changed the flat tire. (active)
The flat tire was changed by Sue. (passive)
We are going to watch a movie tonight. (active)
A movie is going to be watched by us tonight. (passive)
I ran the obstacle course in record time. (active)
The obstacle course was run by me in record time. (passive)
The crew paved the entire stretch of highway. (active)
The entire stretch of highway was paved by the crew. (passive)
23. Mom read the novel in one day. (active)
The novel was read by Mom in one day. (passive)
The critic wrote a scathing review. (active)
A scathing review was written by the critic. (passive)
I will clean the house every Saturday. (active)
The house will be cleaned by me every Saturday. (passive)
The staff is required to watch a safety video every year. (active)
A safety video will be watched by the staff every year. (passive)
She faxed her application for a new job. (active)
The application for a new job was faxed by her. (passive)
24. Tom painted the entire house. (active)
The entire house was painted by Tom. (passive)
The teacher always answers the students’ questions. (active)
The students’ questions are always answered by the teacher. (passive)
The choir really enjoys that piece. (active)
That piece is really enjoyed by the choir. (passive)
Who taught you to ski? (active)
By whom were you taught to ski? (passive)
The forest fire destroyed the whole suburb. (active)
The whole suburb was destroyed by the forest fire. (passive)
The two kings are signing the treaty. (active)
The treaty is being signed by the two kings. (passive)
The cleaning crew vacuums and dusts the office every night. (active)
Every night the office is vacuumed and dusted by the cleaning crew. (passive)
Larry generously donated money to the homeless shelter. (active)
Money was generously donated to the homeless shelter by Larry. (passive)
No one responded to my sales ad. (active)
My sales ad was not responded to by anyone. (passive)
25. The wedding planner is making all the reservations. (active)
All the reservations will be made by the wedding planner. (passive)
Susan will bake two dozen cupcakes for the bake sale. (active)
For the bake sale, two dozen cookies will be baked by Susan. (passive)
The science class viewed the comet. (active)
The comet was viewed by the science class. (passive)
Who ate the last cookie? (active)
The last cookie was eaten by whom? (passive)
Alex posted the video on Facebook. (active)
The video was posted on Facebook by Alex. (passive)
The director will give you instructions. (active)
Instructions will be given to you by the director. (passive)
Thousands of tourists view the Grand Canyon every year. (active)
The Grand Canyon is viewed by thousands of tourists every year. (passive)
The homeowners remodeled the house to help it sell. (active)
The house was remodeled by the homeowners to help it sell. (passive)
The team will celebrate their victory tomorrow. (active)
The victory will be celebrated by the team tomorrow. (passive)
The saltwater eventually corroded the metal beams. (active)
The metal beams were eventually corroded by the saltwater. (passive)
The kangaroo carried her baby in her pouch. (active)
The baby was carried by the kangaroo in her pouch. (passive)
Some people raise sugar cane in Hawaii. (active)
Sugar cane is raised by some people in Hawaii. (passive)