What is the passive voice​​?

When we speak, we usually speak in the active voice. For example:

  • I eat pancakes.
  • She plays tennis.
  • Tony writes letters.

In the active voice, the object receives the action of the verb. The passive voice is a type of sentence where the subject receives the action of the verb. The roles are reversed.

**Hint: You’ll need to know the past participle (third column verbs) for the passive voice.

structure of passive voice

The structure of the passive voice is different to the normal sentence structure you’ve learnt. I’ll give you an example:

Active voice = S + V + O = The dog chews the bone.
The bone is the object and it receives the action.

Passive voice = O + V + S = The bone is chewed by the dog. The subject and object have changed places and you may have also noticed that there is an auxiliary verb in there too.

It looks easy, right? Well, not that easy… the passive voice can be applied to many of the different tenses we have in English (but not all of them). Once you’ve learnt those, you’re on your way to cracking the passive voice.

Take a look at the pictures below for the different tense structures of the passive voice.

passive voice structure table - past tense
passive voice structure table - present tense
passive voice structure table - future tense

10 reasons for using passive voice

So, why do we use the passive voice and why is it important? The passive voice is used to give importance to the person/object that encounters the action (not the one that performs it). The most important person/object becomes the subject. For example:

– The blaze killed 55 people. (focus is on the fire)
– 55 people were killed by the blaze. (focus is on 55 people)

The good news is that it isn’t very common in everyday speech. We tend to use the active voice when speaking informally. However, I does have his uses.

Take a look at the slides below to see 10 uses of the passive voice.

why do we use passive voice
why do we use passive voice
why do we use passive voice
why do we use passive voice
why do we use passive voice
why do we use passive voice
why do we use passive voice
why do we use passive voice
why do we use passive voice
why do we use passive voice

12 top tips for learning the passive voice

I’ve given you quite a lot of scary information to mull over and here is some more. I’ve pulled out some of the key points of the passive voice for you to learn.

Check out these 12 top tips for learning the passive voice.

passive voice - Learn the basic structure: to be + past
passive voice - Learn the basic structure: object + to be + past participle
passive voice - Learn the basic structure: object + to be + past participle + by + subject
passive voice - swap the position of the subject and the object
passive voice - Only the past participle verb form (third column, V3) is used
passive voice - The word ‘by’ is used before the subject.
passive voice - The auxiliary verbs used in the passive voice change for each tense.
passive voice - The word ‘by’ is used before the subject.
passive voice - Some tense structures CAN’T be used in the passive voice.
passive voice - The subject can be sometimes be removed (if it’s obvious).
passive voice - If you don’t know the person who performed the action, use the passive voice.
passive voice - A common passive voice phrase you will use frequently is ‘to be born’ (especially in the past tense).

passive voice exercises

You’ve learnt the passive voice, now it’s time to put your knowledge to the test. We’ll start with some easy ones then gradually get more difficult.

Here goes…

Change the following sentences into the passive voice (I’ve given you the tense in these ones!). The correct answers are at the bottom of the slide.

passive voice exercises – simple tenses

passive voice exercises – continuous tenses​​

passive voice exercises - present continuous
passive voice exercises - present continuous

passive voice exercises – perfect tenses​​ and modals

passive voice exercises - present perfect
passive voice exercises - past perfect
passive voice exercises - modals

passive voice exercises – mixed tenses​​

passive voice exercises - mixed tenses
passive voice exercises - mixed tenses
passive voice exercises - mixed tenses

passive voice exercises – sentence unscramble

sentence unscramble - passive voice
sentence unscramble - passive voice
sentence unscramble - passive voice
sentence unscramble - passive voice
sentence unscramble - passive voice