Active Voice, Passive Voice
There are two special forms for verbs called voice:
1. Active voice
2. Passive voice
The active voice is the “normal” voice. This is the voice that we use most of the time. You are probably already familiar with the active voice. In the active voice, the object receives the action of the verb:
The passive voice is less usual. In the passive voice, the subject receives the action of the verb:
The object of the active verb becomes the subject of the passive verb:
The passive voice is less usual than the active voice. The active voice is the “normal” voice. But sometimes we need the passive voice. In this lesson we look at how to construct the passive voice, when to use it and how to conjugate it.
Construction of the Passive Voice
The structure of the passive voice is very simple:
subject + auxiliary verb (be) + main verb (past participle)
The main verb is always in its past participle form.
Look at these examples:
auxiliary verb (to be)
main verb (past participle)
by this company.
Use of the Passive Voice
We use the passive when:
• we want to make the active object more important
• we do not know the active subject
give importance to active object (President Kennedy)
by Lee Harvey Oswald.
active subject unknown
has been stolen.
Note that we always use by to introduce the passive object (Fish are eaten by cats).
Look at this sentence:
• He was killed with a gun.
Normally we use by to introduce the passive object. But the gun is not the active subject. The gun did not kill him. He was killed by somebody with a gun. In the active voice, it would be: Somebody killed him with a gun. The gun is the instrument. Somebody is the “agent” or “doer”.
Conjugation for the Passive Voice
We can form the passive in any tense. In fact, conjugation of verbs in the passive tense is rather easy, as the main verb is always in past participle form and the auxiliary verb is always be. To form the required tense, we conjugate the auxiliary verb. So, for example:
• present simple: It is made
• present continuous: It is being made
• present perfect: It has been made
Here are some examples with most of the possible tenses:
to be washed
It is washed.
It was washed.
It will be washed.
It would be washed.
It is being washed.
It was being washed.
It will be being washed.
It would be being washed.
It has been washed.
It had been washed.
It will have been washed.
It would have been washed.
It has been being washed.
It had been being washed.
It will have been being washed.
It would have been being washed.