the-passive-voice-grammar

The passive voice

The passive voice is used when we want to focus on the person or thing affected by the action and not the performer of the action.

Active:   I ate two biscuits. (the focus is on me – the performer of the action)

Passive:Two biscuits were eaten by me. (the focus is on the biscuits – the thing affected  by the action)

Active: Subject is first (the person or thing that causes the action), followed by the verb, and finally the object (the person or thing affected by the action).

I – ate – two biscuits. ‘I’ is the subject, the verb is ‘ate’ and the object is ‘two biscuits’

Passive: Object is first (the thing affected by the action), followed by the verb, and finally the subject (the person or thing that causes the action).

Two biscuits – were eaten – by me.

How to make the passive in English

To make the passive put the verb ‘to be’ into the tense you need and add the past participle.

the object > the verb ‘to be’ in the tense we need > the past participle

We use the passive voice:

  • 1️⃣ to change the focus of the sentence,

The Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted by Michelangelo. (The main focus is on the painting, not the artist.)

  • 2️⃣ when the causes of the action (who or what) are unknown, unimportant, obvious or ‘people’ in general,

He was arrested (obvious agent, the police).

Your car has been serviced (unknown agent).

High street shops are being closed (unimportant agent).

Your child can be collected from the school (people in general).

  • 3️⃣ in formal, factual or scientific writing,

The data was uploaded to a hard drive.

Your appointment has been rescheduled.

The article was written by artificial intelligence.

The investigation is being conducted by our office.

  • 4️⃣ In order to put new/ less important information at the end (to improve style),

These new books are currently used in the class. The books were purchased by the City Council.

Tense Active Passive
Present Simple I eat a biscuit. A biscuit is eaten (by me).
Present Continuous I am eating a biscuit. A biscuit is being eaten (by me).
Past Simple I ate a biscuit. A biscuit was eaten (by me).
Past Continuous I was eating a biscuit. A biscuit was being eaten (by me).
Present Perfect I have eaten a biscuit. A biscuit has been eaten (by me).
Present Perfect Continuous I have been eating a biscuit. A biscuit has been being eaten (by me).
Past Perfect I had eaten a biscuit. A biscuit had been eaten (by me).
Future Simple I will eat a biscuit. A biscuit will be eaten (by me).
Future Perfect I will have eaten a biscuit. A biscuit will have been eaten (by me).




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