More on Passive Voice

Understanding Passive Voice

The passive voice is a grammatical construct that isn't generally used in English; however, it is essential for adding style and diversity to your speech or writing. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon by some external agent.

An example of this would be: "The mail was received by John." Here, 'The mail' is the subject that is being acted upon by 'John'.

Converting Active Voice to Passive Voice

To convert a sentence from the active voice to the passive voice, you must remember the following steps:

  1. Identify the subject (the one performing the action) and the object (the one receiving the action) in the sentence.
  2. Swap the positions of the subject and the object.
  3. Use the correct form of the verb 'to be' and the past participle of the main verb.
  4. If necessary, introduce the former subject by using 'by'.

For example, if you have the active sentence "Bob repairs bicycles", you can convert it to the passive voice as follows:

  1. Subject is 'Bob' and the object is 'bicycles'.
  2. Swap the positions to get 'Bicycles Bob'.
  3. Use the correct form of 'to be' and the past participle of 'repair' to get 'Bicycles are repaired'.
  4. Introduce the former subject using 'by' to form 'Bicycles are repaired by Bob'.

When to Use Passive Voice

Passive voice has its specific occasions and reasons for use. It's generally used:

  1. When the person or thing carrying out the action is unknown. For instance, "My lunch was taken."
  2. When it is obvious who has executed the action. For example, "A thief has been arrested."
  3. When the action itself is more important than whoever did it. Example: "The Great Wall of China was built more than two millennia ago."
  4. When you want to be formal or impersonal. For instance, "It has been decided that the meeting shall be postponed."
  5. When writing about processes. For example, "The ingredients are then added in and mixed well."

The Structure of Passive Sentences

Here is the regular structure for passive voice sentences:

Subject + Verb to be (according to number and tense) + past participle + (by + Object)

Examples would include:

  1. "A letter was written by Mary."
  2. "Mistakes were made."

Passive voice in different tenses

The tense of the sentence affects the form of 'to be' used in the sentence. Let's examine how the passive voice changes with each tense:

  1. Simple Present: "The letter is sent by Paul."
  2. Present Continuous: "The letter is being sent by Paul."
  3. Simple Past: "The letter was sent by Paul."
  4. Past Continuous: "The letter was being sent by Paul."
  5. Present Perfect: "The letter has been sent by Paul."
  6. Past Perfect: "The letter had been sent by Paul."


The passive voice certainly has its place in English language. It's perfect for adding variety and detail to your writing and pronunciation, and it's also handy for describing particular types of situations. Just remember, overuse of the passive voice can lead to obscure or over-complicated sentences. Keep a steady balance between the active and passive voices and your writing will engage and captivate your readers.

Leave a Reply