Posted by: Idioma Extra | October 9, 2013

Grammar Guru

Passive Voice

Active voice- In English, we generally use the active voice. The active voice is when the subject does the action. For example, Steve loves Amy.

Steve is doing  the action (love) and Amy is receiving the action. Therefore, Steve is the subject and Amy is the object in the sentence.

Passive voice- In passive voice, the target of the action gets promoted to the subject position. Instead of saying, “Steve loves Amy,” I would say, “Amy is loved by Steve.

The subject of the sentence becomes Amy, but she isn’t doing anything.


Here are some rules for using the passive voice:

1.  Check to see if the active sentence contains an object.

John ate an apple.         (S V O)       Passive is possible.

John ate yesterday.       (S V)          Passive is not possible.

2.  Move the object to the front of the sentence.  Put the original subject in a “be” phrase .

An apple (V) by John.

3.  Put the verb in the form “be” + past participle (of main verb)

An apple У be Ф eaten by John.

4.  Put the “be” in the same tense as the original active sentence.

An apple was/were eaten by John.  ( past tense)

5.  Make the first verb agree with the new subject.

An apple was eaten by John.


When do I use passive voice?

In some sentences, passive voice can be perfectly acceptable. You might use it in the following cases:

  1. The actor is unknown:

    The cave paintings of Lascaux were made in the Upper Old Stone Age. [We don’t know who made them.]

  2. The actor is irrelevant:

    An experimental solar power plant will be built in the Australian desert. [We are not interested in who is building it.]

  3. You want to be vague about who is responsible:

    Mistakes were made. [Common in bureaucratic writing!]

  4. You are talking about a general truth:

    Rules are made to be broken. [By whomever, whenever.]

  5. You want to emphasize the person or thing acted on. For example, it may be your main topic:

    Insulin was first discovered in 1921 by researchers at the University of Toronto. It is still the only treatment available for diabetes.

Remember, for the passive voice you need to be + past participle

Great! Now, take a Comprehension Quiz on the Passive Voice.



  1. […] If you missed last week’s Grammar Guru, click here to review. […]

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