U12: Active and passive voice



Use of Passive
Passive voice is used when the focus is on the action. It is not important or not known, however, who or what is performing the action.
Example: Books are made of paper.
In the example above, the focus is on the fact that books are made of paper. I do not know, however, who did it.
Sometimes a statement in passive is more polite than active voice, as the following example shows:
Example: Shoes are made of leather.
In this case, I focus on the fact that shoes are made of leather, but I do not blame anyone (e.g. You make shoes.)

Form of Passive

Subject + finite form of to be + Past Participle 
Example: Erasers are made of rubber.

TenseSubjectVerbObject
Simple PresentActive:Ritawritesa letter.
Passive:A letteris writtenby Rita.
Examples of Passive with other tenses and aspects Level 2
TenseSubjectVerbObject
Simple PresentActive:Ritawritesa letter.
Passive:A letteris writtenby Rita.
Simple PastActive:Ritawrotea letter.
Passive:A letterwas writtenby Rita.
Present PerfectActive:Ritahas writtena letter.
Passive:A letterhas been writtenby Rita.
Future IActive:Ritawill writea letter.
Passive:A letterwill be writtenby Rita.
HilfsverbenActive:Ritacan writea letter.
Passive:A lettercan be writtenby Rita.

Examples of Passive Level 4

TenseSubjectVerbObject
Present ProgressiveActive:Ritais writinga letter.
Passive:A letteris being writtenby Rita.
Past ProgressiveActive:Ritawas writinga letter.
Passive:A letterwas being writtenby Rita.
Past PerfectActive:Ritahad writtena letter.
Passive:A letterhad been writtenby Rita.
Future IIActive:Ritawill have writtena letter.
Passive:A letterwill have been writtenby Rita.
Conditional IActive:Ritawould writea letter.
Passive:A letterwould be writtenby Rita.
Conditional IIActive:Ritawould have writtena letter.
Passive:A letterwould have been writtenby Rita.

Passive Sentences with Two Objects Level 3

Rewriting an active sentence with two objects in passive voice means that one of the two objects becomes the subject, the other one remains an object. Which object to transform into a subject depends on what you want to put the focus on.
SubjectVerbObject 1Object 2
Active:Ritawrotea letterto me.
Passive:A letterwas writtento meby Rita.
Passive:Iwas writtena letterby Rita.
.
As you can see in the examples, adding by Rita does not sound very elegant. Thats why it is usually dropped.

Personal and Impersonal Passive

Personal Passive simply means that the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence. So every verb that needs an object (transitive verb) can form a personal passive.
Example: They build houses. – Houses are built.
Verbs without an object (intransitive verb) normally cannot form a personal passive sentence (as there is no object that can become the subject of the passive sentence). If you want to use an intransitive verb in passive voice, you need an impersonal construction – therefore this passive is called Impersonal Passive.
Example: he says – it is said
Impersonal Passive is not as common in English as in some other languages (e.g. German, Latin). In English, Impersonal Passive is only possible with verbs of perception (e. g. say, think, know).
Example: They say that women live longer than men. – It is said that women live longer than men.
Although Impersonal Passive is possible here, Personal Passive is more common.
Example: They say that women live longer than men. – Women are said to live longer than men.
The subject of the subordinate clause (women) goes to the beginning of the sentence; the verb of perception is put into passive voice. The rest of the sentence is added using an infinitive construction with 'to' (certain auxiliary verbs and that are dropped).
Sometimes the term Personal Passive is used in English lessons if the indirect object of an active sentence is to become the subject of the passive sentence.

Exercises

Exercises on Passive (Form)

Exercises on Passive (Active → Passive)

Exercises on Passive (Active or Passive)

Grammar in Texts

Tests on Passive

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