Passive Voice

I. Function

Passive voice is used when a sentence focuses on the action. It is not important or not known who or what is performing the action.

Examples:

  1. Radio was invented in 1895. (It is interested in the radio, not the person who invented it)
  2. The house is being renovated. (It is interested in the house, not who is renovating it)

II. Pattern

A passive voice is constructed by using the following pattern:

Subject+to be+past participle+rest of sentence

Or if we want to show the actor of the action, we can use by+object, so the pattern becomes:

Subject+to be+past participle+by+object

To change an active sentence into passive, just move the position of subject into object. It means, the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive one and vice versa. Please pay attention to the following chart.

III. BE

  1. present: am, is, are (used in present tense)
  2. past: was, were (used in past tense)
  3. future: be (used in future)
  4. perfect: been (used in perfect tense)
  5. continuous: being (used in continuous tense)

a. Simple Present Tense

Active: He send an email.

Passive: An email is sent (by him).

b. Simple Past Tense

Active: He sent an email.

Passive: An email was sent (by him)

c. Simple Future Tense

Active: He will send an email.

Passive: An email will be sent (by him)

d. Present Perfect Tense

Active: He has sent an email.

Passive: An email has been sent (by him).

e. Present Continuous Tense

Active: He is sending an email.

Passive: An email is being sent (by him).

IV. Form

To build better understanding, please take a look at the positive, negative and interrogative forms of active and passive sentences.

No
Active
Passive
Simple Present Tense
1+) She exhibits photos on nature once a month.
-) She doesn’t exhibit photos on nature once a month.
?) Does she exhibit photos on nature once a month.
+) Photos on nature are exhibited (by her) once a month.
-) Photos on nature are not exhibited (by her) once a month.
?) Are photos on nature exhibited (by her) once a month ?
Simple Past Tense
2
+) Some strangers robbed the supermarket yesterday.
-) Some strangers didn’t rob the supermarket yesterday.
?) Did some strangers rob the supermarket yesterday.

+) The supermarket was robbed (by some strangers) yesterday.
-) The supermarket was not robbed (by some strangers) yesterday.
?) Was the supermarket robbed (by some strangers) yesterday?
Simple Future
3+) The seller and the buyer will sign the contract agreement tomorrow.
-) The seller and the buyer will not sign the contract agreement tomorrow.
?) Will the seller and the buyer sign the contract agreement tomorrow.
+) The contract agreement will be signed (by the seller and the buyer) tomorrow.
-) The contract agreement will not be signed (by the seller and the buyer) tomorrow.
?) Will the contract agreement be signed (by the seller and the buyer) tomorrow?
Present Continuous
4+) The farmer is planting some mango trees.
-) The farmer is not planting some mango trees.
?) Is the farmer planting some mango trees.
+) Some mango trees are being planted (by the farmer).
-) Some mango trees are not being planted (by the farmer).
?) Are some mango trees being planted (by the farmer).
Present Perfect
5+) They have finished the project.
-) They have not finished the project.
?) Have they finished the project.
+) The project has been finished (by them).
-) The project has not been finished (by them).
?) Has the project been finished (by them).

V. Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

We can only change active sentence into passive if the verb in the sentence is a transitive verb(has an object). If the sentence uses an intransitive verb (doesn’t have an object), it can’t. The examples of intransitive verbs are: go, arrive, come, sleep, look, seem, appear, bleed, etc.

Examples:

  1. We go to school everyday.
  2. He arrived at 11p.m last night.
  3. I will come to your house tonight.
  4. The cat always sleeps soundly.

All the sentences above don’t have an object (they use intransitive verbs), so they can’t be changed into passive.

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