Passive Voice - English Grammar

When to use the Passive Voice

The Passive Voice is used to focus on the person or object that is receiving the action rather than the person or object that is performing the action.

Active Voice: the subject does the action.

Passive Voice: the subject receives the action.

Active Voice Passive Voice
John painted the fence. The fence was painted by John.
The storm caused a flood. A flood was caused by the storm.

We can also use the passive voice when we don't know or do not want to mention who is doing the action.

Passive Voice
My wallet has been stolen!
A guitar is being played next door.
 

The passive voice is often used to make statements more polite or formal.

Active Voice (Impolite) Passive Voice (Polite)
We serve breakfast at 8 a.m. Breakfast is served at 8 a.m.
You made mistakes. Mistakes were made.

How to form the Passive Voice

To form the passive voice, we put the verb 'to be' into the appropriate form and then add the past participle

Subject +  verb 'to be' + past participle

TENSE ACTIVE VOICE PASSIVE VOICE
Present Simple Sam cooks the food The food is cooked (by Sam)
Past Simple Sam cooked the food The food was cooked (by Sam)
Future Simple Sam will cook the food The food will be cooked (by Sam)
Present Continuous Sam is cooking the food The food is being cooked (by Sam)
Past Continuous Sam was cooking the food The food was being cooked (by Sam)
Going to Sam is going to cook the food The food is going to be cooked (by Sam)
Present Perfect Sam has cooked the food The food has been cooked (by Sam)
Past Perfect Sam had cooked the food The food had been cooked (by Sam)
Used to Sam used to cook the food The food used to be cooked (by Sam)
Would Always Sam would always cook the food The food would always be cooked (by Sam)
Infinitive Sam has to cook the food The food has to be cooked (by Sam)
Modals Sam should cook the food The food should be cooked (by Sam)
 
 
 
 

Test your knowledge. Try this Passive Voice Quiz!

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Practice making sentences using the Passive Voice...