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Passive Voice

Use

What is passive voice?
  • In the greater number of sentences that come up in everyday life, you use active voice.
  • Active voice looks for example like this: The boy ran after the dog.
  • Passive voice looks like this: The dog was run after (by the boy).
  • Active voice: A person does something.
  • Passive voice: Something is done by a person.
Here are more examples of matching active and passive sentences. Compare them and try to find out what's the difference!
 
 
 
ACTIVE VOICE
 
PASSIVE VOICE
 
The man builds a house.
 
A house is built.
 
The child eats cake.
 
Cake is eaten.
 
The woman sings a song.
 
A song is sung.
 
The boy reads a book.
 
A book is read.
 
 
Let's take a closer look now!
This is a very easy active sentence:
Maria(subject) makes(active verb) spaghetti(object).
  • Who makes spaghetti? Maria.
  • What does Maria make? Spaghetti.
Now let's do the same thing with a passive sentence:
Spaghetti(subject) are made(passive verb).
  • What is made? Spaghetti.
  • Who makes them? We do not know!
  • If you transform a sentence from active to passive voice, the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence.
  • In a passive sentence, most of the time we do not know who is performing the action, only what is being done.

Form

What do you need for a correct sentence in passive voice?
SUBJECT + FORM OF "TO BE" + PAST PARTICIPLE
My mother(subject) is(form of to be) called(past participle) Anne.
  • The form of "to be" has to match the subject I am, you are, he/she/it is, … or I was, you were, …
  • The past participle is the form of the verb that you also use in the present perfect.

By-Agent

Usually, you use passive voice if it is not important who did something, only what was done. In some cases, you might still want to add the information of who does it. For that you can use the by-agent.
  • The teacher solves the problem. (Active voice)
  • The problem is solved. (Passive voice)
  • The problem is solved by the teacher. (Passive voice with by-agent)
Now take a look at the following text. Mark the passive constructions yellow and the active voice orange!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the next exercise, you have to transform active into passive voice and the other way around! You do not need to add a by-agent when transforming into passive voice!
For example:
  • Marcus cooked dinner. Dinner was cooked.
  • The keys were found (by Lara). Lara found the keys.
 
 
 
 
 
  1. Anne gave her backpack to Luke.  

     
  2. The cookies were eaten within a minute (by the children).  

     
  3. Breakfast was prepared (by James).  

     
  4. The weather was announced to be good (by the TV presenter).  

     
  5. The water is said to be warm (by Charlie).  

     
  6. The children broke the window with a stone.  

     
  7. Everyone thinks it is a good idea.  

     
  8. Gina called the police.  

     
  9. The children were told to bring their books to school (by the teacher).  

     
 
 
 
 

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