Active and passive voice english grammer

Review of the Passive Voice& Worksheet

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Review of the Passive Voice& Worksheet

Only sentences that contain the object of a verb can be changed to the passive voice.

Active voice: I invited John.

[subject] [verb] [object]

Passive voice: John was invited by me.

In a passive sentence, the object of the verb (in the active sentence) becomes the subject.

This is the structure for the passive voice:

John was invited (by me).

[subject] + [BE + Past Participle] (by actor)

The (by me) part of the sentence is optional.

Reminder #1

An active sentence that does not have an object cannot be made into the passive voice.

Active voice: She cried. (The verb has no object, so you cannot make a passive sentence)

Active voice: An accident happened. (Again, you cannot form a passive sentence without an object)

Intransitive verbs, verbs that never have an object, like be, die, happen, exist, appear can never be made into the passive voice. Only transitive verbs (enjoy, kill, catch, show, etc) can be used in the passive voice because they have an object. (Hint: They are called transitive because you can transfer an object to them.)

Distinguishing between Passive and Active Voice

Guideline 1: If the sentence does not contain BE + Past Participle, then it cannot be a passive sentence.

Johnwas eating a snack. (= not passive – no BE + Past Participle)

Guideline 2: Look at the subject of the sentence and then the verb. Then ask yourself if the subject is the actor of the verb (did John eat?) or was the subject the object of the verb (Did someone eat John?). If the subject is the actor, then it’s an active sentence. If the subject is the object of the verb, then it’s a passive sentence.


Begin these in class with guidance from your tutor. You can check some of the answers in the link underneath but will only be marked on those questions where no answers were given.

Active and passive voice is a grammatical construction that gives emphasis to the subject or actor of a sentence and its relationship to the verb.

The normal order of sentences is subject (performer of action), verb (action word) and object (receiver of the action of the verb) For example

The child broke the toy.

The active voice indicates that the subject is performing the action of the verb.

The passive voice indicates that the action is taking place, but not necessarily who or what is committing the action eg The funds were stolen.; Mr Brown was missed.

In passive voice, the order is reversed (object, verb, subject) and the verb is usually preceded by a form of the verb “be” (am, is, are, was, been etc).

Active voice is almost always more direct, more economical, and more forceful than passive voice. It indicates who or what is performing the action of the verb.

Passive An employees extra efforts should be recognised [by whom?]

Active Bosses should recognise an employees extra efforts.

Passive voice is appropriate when the identity of the subject or ‘actor’ is not of vital importance or when the subject is unknown –

Passive: The dinosaurs were eliminated from the face of the earth.

Active: (?) eliminated the dinosaurs from the face of the earth.

Passive voice can also be used when you might need to be more tactful and avoid conflict –

Passive: This letter needs to be more precisely written.

Active: You need to write this letter more precisely.

Sometimes writers use passive voice and leave out the subject of the sentence

Excessive use of passive voice should be avoided as it can be evasive and indirect.

Passive: The modem has been damaged.

Active: I damaged the modem.

Passive: Mummy, mummy, the window got broken.

Active: Mummy, mummy, Johnny broke the window.

Exercise 1: Rewrite the following sentences in the active voice. You may need to invent the subject of the sentence. If you are unsure of the subject, find the verb and ask yourself who is performing the action. Invent a subject if necessary. The verb or main action is underlined. The first one is done for you.

1. Copies of all sales transactions must be submitted at the end of each working day.

[Hint: the verb or action is ‘submitting, so ask, ‘who did the submitting?’ The answer (you might need to make this up), is the subject of the sentence. Put the subject towards the front of the sentence.]

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