Voice ( active voice and passive voice ) is one of the most important concepts in English grammar, and is fundamental for every English language learner in order to get a good grasp over the subject.
Active Voice and Passive Voice Rules
Before going into the rules of conversion from active to passive voice and vice versa, one needs to understand a few terms.
Subject: The doer of action in the sentence is the subject. Subject indicates what the sentence is about.
Object: Object is the word on which the action is performed by the subject. In active voice, the sentence starts with the subject and ends with the object. In passive voice, the sentence starts with the object and the subject comes towards the end of the sentence.
So, in a nutshell,
- If the subject of a sentence does something, then the sentence is said to be in active voice.
- If something is done to the subject in a sentence, it is said to be in passive voice.
‘BE’ forms of the verb: Recognition of the verb form is extremely important while converting a sentence from active voice to passive voice. It can be determined through these 8 be- forms of the verb tenses.
If the Active voice sentence is in
The ‘be’ form in the passive
|Present Tense||am, is are|
|Past Tense||was, were|
|Continuous tense (Present/Past/Future)||being|
Rules for changing a sentence from active voice to passive voice:
- The positions of the subject and the object of the sentence are interchanged.
- In passive voice, always the third form of the verb (past participle) should be used along with it’s ‘be’ form.
- In passive voice, the subject is preceded by the preposition ‘by’.
- According to the tense of the sentence, helping verbs (auxiliary verbs) are used in passive voice. There will be no change in tense from active voice to passive voice.
The following are the changes occurred in the pronouns while converting a sentence from active to passive voice:
|Active voice||Passive Voice|
Using the above principles, let us convert a sentence from active voice to passive voice.
Active voice: He sings a song. (He- Subject, sing- verb, a song- Object)
Passive voice: A song is sung by him. (The be- form ‘is’ is used before the verb since the sentence is in simple present tense.)
Now, let us take a simple sentence and write passive voice for all the tenses of that sentence.
Eg. Harry eats an Apple.
Now let us write the 12 tenses for this sentence and convert them into passive voice.
|Tense||Active Voice||Passive Voice.|
|Simple Present||Harry eats an apple.||An apple is eaten by Harry.|
|Present Continuous||Harry is eating an apple.||An apple is being eaten by Harry.|
|Present Perfect||Harry has eaten an apple.||An apple has been eaten by Harry.|
|Present perfect continuous||Harry has been eating an apple.||— No Passive Voice —|
|Simple Past||Harry ate an apple.||An apple was eaten by Harry.|
|Past continuous||Harry was eating an apple||An apple was being eaten by Harry.|
|Past Perfect||Harry had eaten an apple.||An apple had been eaten by Harry.|
|Past perfect Continuous.||Harry had been eating an apple.||— No Passive Voice—|
|Simple Future||Harry will eat an apple||An apple will be eaten by Harry.|
|Future Continuous||Harry will be eating an apple.||— No Passive Voice —|
|Future Perfect||Harry will have eaten an apple.||An apple will have been eaten by Harry.|
|Future Perfect Continuous||Harry will have been eating an apple.||— No Passive Voice —|
Note: The following tenses cannot be changed in passive voice:
- Present Perfect Continuous Tense
- Past Perfect Continuous Tense
- Future Continuous Tense
- Future Perfect Continuous Tense.
Exercise: Convert the following sentences into passive voice:
- I will deposit the money.
- Mark has traveled the world.
- I have seen him.
- They cancelled the appointment.
- Michael creates music.
Some other cases:
How to transform sentences with two objects?
If any given sentence in active voice contains two objects, take either of the two objects and convert into passive voice.
For example, “Rahul gave a book to Martin”.
In this sentence, there are two objects, i.e., Martin and a book. Hence this sentence can be converted into passive voice by taking either of those two objects into consideration. Hence, it leads to either of the two following outcomes:
- A book was given to Martin by Rahul.
- Martin was given a book by Rahul.
Exercise: convert the following sentences into passive voice:
- He wrote her a letter. (Objects: Her, a letter).
- Brielle will present me a gift. (Objects: (Me, a gift).
- The company offered Justin a job. (Objects: A job, Justin.
Can there be a Passive voice without using “by”?
Yes. Sometimes we use passive voice to intentionally hide the subject. Also, there will be circumstances where the use of the subject is unnecessary. Sometimes the subject is unknown. While converting such sentences, the subject, and hence the preposition ‘by’ are not needed in the passive voice.
For example, the sentence “People speak English” can be written as “English is spoken” instead of “English is spoken by people”.
In the same way,
- They stole a car can be written as A car was stolen.
- The police arrested the thief can be written as the thief was arrested.
‘By’ is not accompanied with some verbs in passive voice.
The verbs know, married, engaged should be followed by
- He knows her becomes she is known to him.
- Michelle married Barack becomes Barack is married to Michelle.
The verbs satisfy, impress, fill should be followed by
- His dance satisfied the audience becomes the audience was satisfied with his dance.
- He impressed her becomes She was impressed with him.
The verbs surprised, wondered, amazed, astonished, puzzled should be followed by
- Her presence surprised him becomes He was surprised at her presence.
- How to transform imperative sentences into passive voice?
Let’s take a command as an example. “Open the Door.” In order to change this sentence into passive voice, the following structure should be used:
|Let + Object + be + Verb 3 (V3)|
Applying this structure into the example, the passive voice will be “Let the door be opened.”
Similarly, the following imperative sentences are converted into passive voice as follows:
- Call the witness will be changed into let the witness be called.
- Do your homework will be changed into let your homework be done.
- Eat the food will be changed into let the food be eaten.
How to change the voice of Interrogative sentences?
Let us take an example of an interrogative sentence, “Is he driving the bus?”
First, change the sentence into a positive sentence, which makes it “he is driving the bus”.
Then, change into passive voice. It becomes “The bus is being driven by him”.
Finally, make this sentence into interrogative by placing the helping verb before the subject. It will be “Is the bus being driven by him?”
- Is he selling his car? becomes Is his car being sold by him?
- Do you watch Soccer? becomes Is Soccer watched by you?
- Why does he love her? Becomes Why is she loved by him?
- Have you watched that film? becomes Has that film been watched by you?
- Who killed Osama becomes By whom was Osama killed?
- Can you solve this problem?
- Have you found the address?
- Who broke the window?
- Who teaches English in your school?
The ‘shall’ in the ‘I’ and ‘We’ in active voice is changed into ‘will’ in passive voice.
Active Voice: I shall buy a car.
Passive voice: A car will be bought by me.
Active voice: We shall postpone the meeting.
Passive voice: The meeting will be postponed by us.
The various concepts of active voice and passive voice can be mastered by practicing lots and exercises.
Click here for exercises on Active and passive voice.
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