Passive Voice

Miscellaneous - Lesson #2

Many people who are learning English ask about the difference between active voice and passive voice.

An active voice sentence is the kind of sentence that you probably already know very well. In an active voice sentence, the person or thing that is doing the action is at the beginning of the sentence.

The passive voice is a different way to make a sentence. In passive voice sentences, the focus is not on the person who does the action. The focus is on the person or thing that received the action.

Compare these sentences.
  • Mark painted this picture. (Active Voice)
  • This picture was painted by Mark. (Passive Voice)

  • My mom made these cookies. (Active Voice)
  • These cookies were made by my mom. (Passive Voice)

  • A car hit Tony. (Active Voice)
  • Tony was hit by a car. (Passive Voice)
As you can see, passive voice sentences focus on the object of the sentence.

So, when do we use passive voice?
  1. When the object is more important than the person who does the action.
  2. When we do not know who did the action or they are not important.
Now, let's take a look at how to make passive sentences.

Here is how you make passive voice sentences in the different verb tenses. We do not cover every verb tense, but we cover all the ones you need to know.

Present Tense and Past Tense

Noun(s) + be verb + past participle…

The noun is basically the object and subject of the sentence.
  • This watch is made of gold.
  • These shirts are manufactured in China.
  • That product was not created by our company.
  • The road was fixed last week.
  • His name was not mentioned in the newspaper.
We can tell who does or did the action by using "by + noun". This is the same for all verb tenses.
  • The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • This story was written by Greg.
  • My car was fixed by Ben.
Future Tense with "Will"

Noun(s) + will be + past participle…
  • Our house will be painted next week.
  • The presentation will not be given by Henry.
  • The project will be finished by the end of the year.
Note: "By the end of the year" is not telling who will do the action, it is telling the deadline. We can also use "by" to tell deadlines.

Present Continuous and Past Continuous

Noun(s) + be verb + being + past participle…
  • The house is being fixed.
  • The road was being repaired last week.
  • The issue is being investigated by the police.
Present Perfect

Noun(s) + has/have + being + past participle…
  • The book has not been reviewed many times.
  • The movie has been seen by people all over the world.
  • The building has been cleaned since yesterday.
Present Perfect Continuous

Noun(s) + has/have + been + being + past participle…
  • The house has been being constructed for over 5 years.
  • The report has been being edited for a couple days.
  • These events have been being planned since last year.
Past Perfect

Noun(s) + had been + past participle…
  • The product had been assembled before it was shipped.
  • The computer had been destroyed before I arrived.
  • The watch had been stolen before the party ended.
There are many different ways to use passive voice. Here are a few other ways that you need to know.

Passive with Infinitives

We use infinitives after certain verbs, adjectives, and other ways.

We can use a passive infinitive form. An infinitive is "to + verb". A passive infinitive is "to be + past participle". We use these after certain verbs.
  • He wants to be fired from his job.
  • They need to be scolded.
  • We expect the car to be fixed soon.
  • He has to be taught how to swim.
  • The reason I come to this class is to be taught English by you.
Passive with Modals

We use "be + past participle" after modals.
  • Jon might be promoted next year.
  • The car should be fixed before we leave.
  • It will be finished soon.
  • This problem can be solved.
  • The bridge could be repaired in one week.
  • The samples may not be taken out.
  • The work must be completed before the deadline.
  • The chair would already be fixed if we had the right parts.
Passive with Gerunds

We use gerunds after prepositions, adjectives, and certain verbs.

When you need to use a gerund in the passive voice, then use "being + past participle". Look at some example sentences of when you might need to use this kind of sentence.
  • She remembers being scolded by her teacher a lot when she was young.
  • The children are excited about being taken to the zoo by their mother.
  • Our dog likes being petted.
  • She is busy being informed about the current situation.
The passive voice is not as common as the active voice. However, there are certain times when you need to use or it is better to use a passive sentence or question when speaking English. So, it is crucial that you know how to make and use passive voice sentences and questions.