Passive-voice

How to Form the Passive Voice in English | ABA English

How to Form the Passive Voice in English

As you surely know already, all grammar topics are important and, in reality, they help you to learn languages better. The passive voice in English is a grammatical element that you cannot ignore because in many cases, you will use it to make your writing or speaking more formal.

Some people may have catalogued the passive voice as a bad habit, but in reality, it is not only correct but also very useful. Continue reading this article to learn how to form the passive tense and how to use it properly.

What Is the Passive Voice? 

First things first. To be able to correctly use this grammatical form, you must know your verb tenses very well and you must also learn the structure of the passive voice in English.

The passive informs us about who receives the action of the verb. We use the passive voice when we focus on the action and who is receiving it. The person who is performing the action is usually either unimportant or unknown. For example, we could say: 

My house was robbed.

As you can see in the sentence above, we do not know who performed the action.

Active vs. Passive Voice

Switching from active voice to passive voice is relatively easy. When using the passive voice in English, you need to keep in mind that the object of the “active” sentence becomes the subject of the “passive” sentence. At the same time, the subject of the “active” sentence becomes the object in the “passive” sentence, or is not mentioned. Here is an example:

Someone robbed my house.
(In this sentence, “someone” is the subject and “house” is the object.) 

My house was robbed.
(In this sentence, “house” has become the subject. As it is not relevant, “someone” disappears.)

You can add a prepositional phrase if you consider it necessary. Sometimes in the passive voice, it is still necessary to establish who is responsible for the action. Use a prepositional phrase to add this information, for example:

My house was robbed by Henry.

Passive Voice Examples

Let’s take a look at some examples of the passive voice in the different verb tenses. We have put the same sentence in active voice and passive voice so that you can see the changes that occur. Pay special attention to the use of the auxiliaries to have and to be in the passive voice.

Present Simple 

Active voice: 

John feeds the birds.

Passive voice: 

The birds are fed (by John).

Present Continuous 

Active voice:

John is feeding the birds.

Passive voice: 

The birds are being fed (by John).

Present Perfect 

Active voice: 

John has fed the birds.

Passive voice:

The birds have been fed (by John).

Past Simple 

Active voice: 

John fed the birds.

Passive voice: 

The birds were fed (by John).

Past Continuous 

Active voice: 

John was feeding the birds.

Passive voice: 

The birds were being fed (by John).

Future Simple 

Active voice: 

John will feed the birds.

Passive voice: 

The birds will be fed (by John).

Verb Tenses With No Passive Voice

Pay attention to these verb tenses. They cannot take the passive voice and must always remain active.

Present Perfect Continuous 

Active voice: 

John has been feeding the birds.

Past Perfect Continuous 

Active voice: 

John had been feeding the birds.

Future Continuous 

Active voice: 

John will be feeding the birds.

Future Perfect Continuous 

Active voice: 

John will have been feeding the birds.

Sentences with intransitive verbs also cannot use the passive voice because they have no object. 

The vase fell to the ground.

The weather was wonderful.

Passive Voice Exercises

“Practice makes perfect,” says the popular saying. So, if you want to master this grammar topic, here are some exercises that will allow you to practice the passive voice in English and become an expert.

One of the classic ways of learning the passive voice is to transform sentences from the active voice to the passive voice. It may seem a bit monotonous to you, but it will definitely help you master this so that you can do it with your eyes closed!

Another way of practising the passive voice in English it to take a story or a fairytale and read it out loud to practice your pronunciation, while also transforming the sentences from the active voice to the passive voice.

Now you have all the elements you need to master the passive voice in English. If you are interested in mastering English grammar, try the online course from ABA English. This course offers you 144 free video classes and the same number of short films that will help you learn the necessary grammar and language skills in an entertaining and effective way.

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13 comments

  1. I want. Know why The auxiliary. “Will” ddin’te change to “would” in passive voice? thank you!

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