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Passive Voice
Passive: When to Use The Passive

Forming the Passive
Use the appropriate tense of TO BE, and + PAST PARTICIPLE.
  • Wine is made here.
    • Present Simple Passive of To Make.
  • The bridge will be finished next year.
    • Future Simple Passive of To Finish.
  • All the homework has been done.
    • Present Perfect Passive of To Do.
Here are some more examples between the active voice and the passive voice.
  • Present Simple
    • ACTIVE: We make sausages here.
    • PASSIVE: Sausages are made here.
  • Present Continuous
    • ACTIVE: We are cleaning the cars now.
    • PASSIVE: The cars are being cleaned now.
  • Future Simple
    • ACTIVE: We will test the rockets tomorrow.
    • PASSIVE: The rockets will be tested tomorrow.
  • Present Perfect
    • ACTIVE: Someone has stolen my car!
    • PASSIVE: My car has been stolen!
  • Past Simple
    • ACTIVE: We captured all the criminals.
    • PASSIVE: All the criminals were captured by us.
  • Past Continuous
    • ACTIVE: We were using all the computers.
    • PASSIVE: All the computers were being used by us.
The object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence.
  • They open the shop at 8am.
    • The shop is the object.
  • The shop is opened at 8am.
    • The shop is the subject.
The form of the verb to be is dependent on the passive sentence subject.
  • He does all the repairs.
    • The verb is in the singular.
  • All the repairs are done by him.
    • The verb is in the plural.
Use BY when you would like to, or need to, include active voice subject. Sometimes this form is preferred over the active because of the added emphasis at the end of the sentence.
  • The picture was painted by him.
  • The computers are programmed by her.
  • Mrs Collins was killed in her sleep by....HIM!
If the subject has two objects (I gave you my book: "you" & "my book") we prefer the person as the passive voice subject.
  • Active: I gave you my book.
  • Passive: You were given my book by me.
  • (Unnatural: My book was given to you by me.)

  • Active: No one gave me any advice.
  • Passive: I wasn't given any advice by anyone.
  • (Less common: No advice was given to me.)

When to use the Passive
When who does the action is unknown.
  • The house was bought last year.
    • I don't know who bought it.
When who does the action is unimportant.
  • All the boxes are counted before they leave.
    • They could be counted by anyone.
When you are not interested in who does the action.
  • This jumper was hand made.
    • I care about the jumper not the maker.
When it is obvious who does the action.
  • He was arrested last night.
    • Obviously by the police.

When NOT to use the Passive
Use the active if there is no reason to use the passive.
  • I made a fantastic dinner.
    • Probably unnatural to say A fantastic dinner was made by me.
  • We were driving the car.
    • Probably unnatural to say The car was being driven by us.
When the verb has no object to allow it to be passive (intransitive verbs).
For example: Arrive, sleep, sit.
  • When he arrived...
    • NOT When he was arrived...
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