Active Voice vs Passive Voice
Verbs have many different tenses. They also have two primary forms that they take called active voice and passive voice. Active voice is the most common, and we typically speak using the active voice.
- Active Voice: Tim drove the car.
- Passive Voice: The car was driven by Tim.
With the active voice the object receives the action. In the example below the object is books. Here is the structure:
With the passive voice the subject receives the action. In the example below books becomes the subject. As you will learn later in this lesson you do not always need an object when using the passive voice. Here is the structure:
|Books||are read||by us.|
The object of the active verb is the subject of the passive verb. They switch places.
|passive||Books||are read||by us.|
Construction of the Passive Voice
When writing in the passive voice, there is a very simple sentence structure to keep in mind:
subject + auxiliary verb (be) + main verb (past participle)
Just keep in mind that the main verb is always in past participle form. Here are a few examples:
|subject||auxiliary verb (to be)||main verb (past participle)|
|Fish||are||cared for||by me.|
|The tire||was||changed||by Fred.|
|The house||was||painted||by Bill.|
We use the passive voice when we want to make the active object more important or we do not know the active subject.
|give importance to active object (Money)||Money||was donated||by Joseph.|
|active subject unknown||My cell phone||has gone missing||(we do not know the object)
Remember that we always use the word by to introduce the passive object if we include the passive object.
Now, let’s take a look at another example:
- She was hit with a candlestick.
In the other examples, we used the word by to introduce the passive object, but in this case the candlestick is not the active subject. While it might be amusing to debate whether or not the candlestick decided to hit her on its own accord, it is much more likely that she was hit by someone with a candlestick. This would make the candlestick an instrument, rather than the active subject. The someone with the candlestick would be the active subject or what is also referred to as the agent.
Conjugation for the Passive Voice
We can form a passive voice in any tense. Conjugating verbs in the passive tense is actually a very simple process because the auxiliary verb is always “be” and the main verb is always written in past participle form. In order to get the tense we need the auxiliary verb must be conjugated.
- present simple: It is broken
- present continuous: It is being broken
- present perfect: It has been broken
Here are some examples with most of the possible tenses:
|infinitive||to be thrown|
|simple||present||It is thrown|
|past||It was thrown|
|future||It will be thrown|
|conditional||It would be thrown|
|continuous||present||It is being thrown|
|past||It was being thrown|
|future||It will be being thrown|
|conditional||It would be being thrown|
|perfect simple||present||It has been thrown|
|past||It had been thrown|
|future||It will have been thrown|
|conditional||It would have been thrown|
|perfect continuous||present||It has been being thrown|
|past||It had been being thrown|
|future||It will have been being thrown|
|conditional||It would have been being thrown|