Passive Voice Formation

Passive Voice Formation

When constructing sentences, remember that word order is important, and variations on placement of doers and receivers of actions can alter meaning. Using passive versus active voice can significantly change the meaning, intent, and emphasis of your sentence, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Generally, only sentences containing transitive verbs can be made passive, as the passive construction requires the movement of an object. Some other restrictions on passivizing exist (for example, inseparable transitive verbs), and you should consult a more complete reference to see a detailed discussion of these restrictions. For a review on when to use passive vs. active, refer to the chapter Passive vs. Active Voice (Style).

Click each drop-down arrow to learn more about forming the Passive Voice

´╗┐Formation of Active vs. Passive Voice

In the active voice, the doer of the action occurs in the subject position:

subject verb object
They  designed  the hybrid car.
doer  action  receiver

In the passive voice, the receiver of the action occurs in the subject position, and the doer moves to a sometimes optional by-phrase (e.g., by the professor) in the object position. While not necessary to be grammatically correct, you can include the by-phrase containing the doer to clarify meaning.

subject verb object
The hybrid car  was designed  (by them)
receiver  action  doer

Also note that the verb form changes when moving from active to passive. Make sure your new passive verb agrees in number with the new subject and your subject pronoun (if you use one) changes to an object pronoun.  Generally, the perfect continuous and the future continuous forms are not used in passive voice, so they won’t be illustrated here. Besides to be, other passive forms exist; however, these forms are less commonly used. Refer to a more complete reference for a comprehensive overview of passive formations. Here are some formulas you can use to form the passive:

Present Passive
  • simple (am/is/are + past participle)
    • Active: Elders in the Inupiat community tell stories because other members of the community see them as most wise.
    • Passive: Stories are told by the elders in the Inupiat community because they are seen (by the community) as most wise.
  • perfect (has/have + been + past participle)
    • Active: Different countries have shared similar foods, ingredients and even special occasions.
    • Passive: Similar foods, ingredients and even special occasions have been shared (by different countries).
  • continuous (am/is/are + being + past participle)
    • Active:  Scientists are doing continuous research to improve the set process as well as understand genes.
    • Passive: Continuous research is being done (by scientists) to improve the set process as well as understand genes.
Past Passive
  • simple (was/were + past participle)
    • Active: My professor appreciated my question.
    • Passive: My question was appreciated (by the professor).
  • perfect (had + been + past participle)
    • Active: Last quarter, the professor had mentioned the outbreak of measles in the late ’80s or ’90s.
    • Passive: The outbreak of measles in the late ’80s or ’90s had been mentioned by my professor last quarter.
  • continuous (was/were + being + past participle)
    • Active: Scientists were doing research on babies to understand their way of learning.
    • Passive: Much research was being done (by scientists) on babies to understand their way of learning.
Future Passive
  • simple (will + be + past participle)
    • Active: Officials will not allow schoolchildren to go to school.
    • Passive: Schoolchildren will not be allowed (by officials) to go to school.
  • perfect (will + have + been + past participle)
    • Active: My friends will have agreed upon my idea before we meet next week.
    • Passive: My idea will have been agreed upon (by my friends) before we meet next week