Lesson Two

How to Form the Passive Voice

We pointed out in Lesson OneOpens in new window that

Passive voice refers to the form of a verb in which its subject is affected by the action of the verb.

The passive voice of a verb is formed by adding a suitable form of be to the past participle.

The chart below shows the common tenses of the verb “give”.

Tense Active Voice Passive Voice
Simple Present give
am given
is given
are given
Present Continuous am giving
is giving
are giving
am being given
is being given
are being given
Present Perfect has given
have given
has been given
have been given
Simple Past gave was given
were given
Past Continuous was given
were given
was being given
were being given
Past Perfect had given had been given
Simple Future will give
shall give
will be given
shall be given

Example sentences for the various tenses follows:

Active Voice Passive Voice
  • Andy likes oranges.
  • Oranges are liked by Andy.
  • The rat eats cockroach.
  • Cockroach is eaten by the rat.
  • The cleaner is mopping the floor.
  • The floor is being mopped by the cleaner.
  • Mathew is bringing the materials.
  • The materials are being brought by Mathew.
  • Uncle Jones has bought a car.
  • A car has been bought by Uncle Jones.
  • She has washed the dishes.
  • The dishes have been washed by her.
  • The boy threw a stone.
  • A stone was thrown by the boy.
  • When did he sell his car?
  • When was his car sold (by him)?
  • They were repairing the road.
  • The road was being repaired (by them).
  • The children had eaten all the cakes by that time.
  • All the cakes had been eaten by the children by that time.
  • I will invite Mr. Jones.
  • Mr. Jones will be invited (by me).

Notice that when rephrasing active voice into passive voice, the positions which the subject and object occupy in the active voice are interchanged in passive voice.

Thus, the object of the active voice becomes the subject of the passive voice; the subject of the active voice becomes the object of the passive voice (or implied) and the finite form of the verb is changed by adding a suitable form of be to the past participle.

Consider also the following forms:

Verb Form Active Voice Passive Voice
to- infinitive to invite to be invited
He expected you to invite him to the party. He expected to be invited to the party.
ing- form inviting being invited
She likes people inviting her. She likes being invited.

When the verb in the active voice is followed by two objects, it is more usual in English to make the indirect object Opens in new window, that is, “object referring to a person”, the subject of the passive voice.

Observe these Examples:

Active Voice Someone lent me a pen.
Passive Voice I was lent a pen. Or (less usual – A pen was lent to me.)

The following examples cover a variety of sentences, some of which are more complex.

Active Voice Passive Voice
  • All love him
  • He is loved by all.
  • They sell cakes here
  • Cakes are sold here.
  • We should respect teachers.
  • Teachers should be respected.
  • Who wrote this essay?
  • Who was this essay written by?(formal - By whom was this essay written?)
  • When will you return the book?
  • When will the book be returned?
  • Why did you sell your car?
  • Why was your car sold?
  • People have seen a tiger in the woods.
  • A tiger has been seen in the woods.
  • They were pulling down the old house.
  • The old house was being pulled down.
  • You ought to listen to his words.
  • His words ought to be listened to.
  • We should have hired a taxi.
  • A taxi should have been hired.
  • John gave her a present.
  • She was given a present by John.
  • Someone has stolen my purse.
  • My purse has been stolen.
  • They elected him President.
  • He was elected President.
  • I made the room beautiful.
  • The room was made beautiful.
  • I would like you to assist him.
  • I would like him to be assisted.
  • I hate people staring at me.
  • I hate being stared at.
  • I know him.
  • He is known to me.

Other Expressions:

Expressions of such type as, They / People + say / believe, etc. are usually used in the passive in formal style, as in: It is said / believed that …

Active Voice Passive Voice
  • They say ghosts live in the house over there.
  • It is said that ghosts live in the house over there.
    People believed that the earth was flat.
  • It was believed that the earth was flat.

Sometimes a rather useful pattern is: The person or thing is said to be …

Active Voice Passive Voice
  • We say this sentence is in the passive voice.
  • This sentence is said to be in the passive voice.
  • People consider him to be a great patriot.
  • He is considered to be a great patriot.
  • They expect the report to come out next month.
  • The report is expected to come out next month.
    See next pages.
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4