The Passive Voice: grammar rules, explanations and examples.
The Formation of the Passive Voice
auxiliary verb to be + Participle II
A passive verb form is made with the auxiliary verb to be (in the different tenses) and the past participle of the main verb.
|I am told.
She is told.
He is told.
It is made.
We are told.
You are told.
They are told.
|Am I told?
Is she told?
Is he told?
Is it made?
Are we told?
Are you told?
Are they told?
|I am not told. |
He is not told.
She is not told.
It is not made.
We are not told.
You are not told.
They are not told.
The subject of a passive verb is usually the person or thing that is affected be the action of the verb.
Structural Patterns of Passive Sentences
- Subject + Predicate (auxiliary verb 'to be' + Participle II) + Adverbial Modifier
- Subject + Predicate (auxiliary verb 'to be' + Participle II) + by + Object
The book was sold yesterday.
The book was bought by my wife.
Passive verb-formsPassive verb-forms are made with the different tenses of 'to be', followed by a past participle (e. g.: is broken, was told, has been built, will be done; corresponding active verbs forms are: breaks, told, has built, will do). The tenses, and the rules for their use, are the same as for active verb-forms.
|Present||Many interesting educational programs are shown on TV every day .||A very interesting football game is being shown on TV.||The new factory hasn’t been completed yet.|
|Past||A very interesting basketball game was shown on TV last night.||An ice hockey game was being shown on TV when he returned home.||The minister said that over a hundred new schools had been built in the country the year before.|
|Future||An important football game will be shown on TV tomorrow.||---||The factory will have been completed (or will be completed) by the end of the year.|
The Passive Voice is used when we are more interested in the action than in the agent or when the doer of the action is unknown.
By-phrases(Passive: by + agent)
The noun or pronoun following the preposition 'by' is called 'the agent'.
The agent in a passive sentence is the same person or thing as the subject of an active sentence.
- Herman Melville [subject] wrote "Moby Dick". → "Moby Dick" was written by Herman Melville [agent].
- His wife met him at the airport. → He was met at the airport by his wife.
- He was shot by a policeman.
- The parcel was sent by me.
- "Mona Liza" was painted by Leonardo da Vinci.
- He was met at the airport.
- He was shot yesterday.
- A new bridge has just been built.
- He was shot with a revolver [instrument].
Passive: verbs with two objectsA lot of verbs, such us 'give', 'show', 'send', can be followed by two objects, which usually refer to a person and a thing.
- She gave me  a new magazine  yesterday.
- A new magazine was given to me  (by her) yesterday.
- I was given a new magazine  (by her).
Verbs which cannot be used in the passiveNot all verbs can have passive forms. Intransitive verbs (like 'die', 'go', 'arrive') cannot become passive; they have no objects, and so there is nothing to become the subject of a passive sentence.
The transitive verb 'have', in the sense of 'to own' or 'to possess', cannot be made passive:
- Sam had a new car. (But not: A new car was had by Sam.)
Other transitive verbs not used in the passive are 'stative' verbs (verbs which refer to states, not actions). Examples are: 'lack', 'resemble', 'suit', 'fit'. Most of them have no continuous (or progressive) forms, at least in certain of their meaning.
►The verb and particle of a phrasal verb stand together in a passive construction, even if are separated in the corresponding active construction:
- They always laugh at her. (Active) → She is always laughed at. (Passive)
- The scandal brought the government down. (Active)→ The government was brought down by the scandal. (Passive)
- Go to the Passive Voice Worksheets
- Go to the Passive Voice Examples in Texts, Proverbs and Quotations