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What is the Passive Voice?

In (probably) all languages, there is an Active Voice and a Passive Voice.

The Active Voice emphasizes the initiator of the action.

e.g.: The author writes books.
the author = subject
writes = verb in the Active Voice
books = object

The Passive Voice emphasizes the target of the action.

e.g.: Books are written by the author.
books = new subject
are written = verb in the Passive Voice
the author = agent

The preposition by introduces the agent, i.e. the initiator of the action.

Sometimes, the agent is important.
e.g.: The team is lead by Sarah.

Other times, the agent is unimportant or even unknown.
e.g.: My bicycle was stolen.

How do I form the Passive Voice?

to be + the 3rd form of the verb (participle)

The Passive Voice can be used at all tenses. The tense is reflected by the verb to be, while the participle always stays the same.

The table below exemplifies the use of the Passive Voice at the most important tenses.

TenseActive VoicePassive Voice
Present SimpleThe author writes books.Books are written by the author.
Past SimpleGeneral Motors invented air bags.Air bags were invented by General Motors.
Present ContinuousJeremy is reading an email.An email is being read by Jeremy.
Past ContinuousClara was watching a movie.A movie was being watched by Clara.
Future SimpleSomebody will steal your bicycle.Your bicycle will be stolen by somebody.
‘Be Going To’ FutureThe tourists are going to visit the city.The city is going to be visited by the tourists.
Present PerfectWe have finished the project.The project has been finished by us.
Past PerfectThey had rebuilt the museum.The museum had been rebuilt by them.
Present Perfect ContinuousYou have been doing exercises all day.Exercises have been being done by you all day.
Past Perfect ContinuousWe had been discussing the issue for days.The issue had been being discussed by us for days.
Modals (e.g. can)Brian can drive this car.This car can be driven by Brian.
Modals (e.g. might)Ruby might clean the house.The house might be cleaned by Ruby.
Perfect Modals (e.g. could have)They could have robbed the bank.The bank could have been robbed by them.
Perfect Modals (e.g. might have)They might have closed the store.The store might have been closed by them.

In the section Exercises, we will focus on the use of Passive Voice at Present Simple, Past Simple and Future Simple.

Alte observații

  • The Passive Voice is often used to say what an object is made from/of and what it is used for/to.

    e.g.: A notebook is made from paper. A notebook is used for writing.
    e.g.: This statue is made of wood. It is used to decorate the square.

    (Listen to the audio tutorial for further clarification.)

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