Online Tutor For English


Online Tutor For English

Go back to Grammar Subjects List




English Grammar

Passive Voice

Take the QUIZ on the Passive Voice


In passive voice the subject of the sentence is acted upon. When a verb is used in the passive voice, the subject no longer acts but rather has something done to it. We use the passive voice under the following situations:

1. When the object who receives the action performed by the subject is important to tell, but not the subject who performs the action.

Chen is awarded with a medal for his investigative reporting.
(It is important to tell the reader Chen has won a medal for his work, but it is not important to tell whether his boss or some organization has awarded him the medal.)

2. When we don't know who performed the action.

Sue was attacked in the subway.
(Who attacked Sue?) We don't know who attacked Sue in the subway.

3. When we want to avoid 'finger pointing'. In some sticky situations we don't want to tell who performed the action.

All the students were given high grades on the test although many students did not answer the questions correctly.

(Who gave the high grades?) Of course, it is the teacher who gave the high grades, we, however, don't want to blame the teacher this time. Not surprisingly, the passive voice is found in business writing and in formal speech. This helps the writer or speaker avoid finger pointing.

Be cautious!
Do not use passive voice unless you are sure that you are using it correctly. As a rule of thumb, always use the active voice because you will not be penalized for using it in place of passive voice. But you will be penalized if your passive voice sentence sounds awkward. Above all, the passive voice is rarely used as the active voice holds absolute clarity and avoids ambiguity. Use the passive voice if the subject who does the action is not important, but the object who receives the action is important, and you need to emphasize the object that receives the action.

How to Form the Passive Voice

We form the passive voice by using be + past participle.

Active Voice: Archeologists discovered an ancient city in the Middle East.

Passive Voice: An ancient city was discovered by archeologists in the Middle East. However, the subject 'archeologists' have no importance here because, ordinarily all archeological discoveries are carried out by archeologists. Unless you need to indicate a name of the archeologist who discovered the city, you need not to include the 'by' and 'subject' in your passive voice sentence.


Active Voice: Students like the Chemistry teacher Mr. Brown very much.

Passive Voice: The Chemistry teacher Mr. Brown is well-liked by his students. . Here, we don't need to indicate 'by his students' because it is obvious that a teacher serves students.

Passive Voice in Different Tenses

Below are the tense forms used for the passive voice as examples.


Active Voice Passive Voice
1. The national anthem starts the ceremony. 1. The ceremony is started by the national anthem.
2. The national anthem is starting the ceremony 2. The ceremony is being started by the national anthem.
3. The national anthem was starting the ceremony 3. The ceremony was being started by the national anthem.
4. The national anthem started the ceremony. 4. The ceremony was started by the national anthem.
5. The national anthem has started the ceremony. 5. The ceremony has been started by the national anthem.
6. The national anthem had started the ceremony. 6. The ceremony had been started by the national anthem.
7. The national anthem will start the ceremony. 7. The ceremony will be started by the national anthem.
8. 2. The national anthem is going to start the ceremony 8. The ceremony is going to be started by the national anthem.
9. The national anthem will have started the ceremony. 9. The ceremony will have been started by the national anthem.


© 2014 Copy Rights Reserved at Online Tutor For English

Tutor Plans Online Resources Add Link Advertise with us

Grammar Links:

Articles, a-an, the

Adjectives and Adverbs

Appositives in Complete Sentence

Complete Sentence



Parts of Speech

Passive Voice


Parallel Structure


Present Perfect Tense

Present Perfect Continuous Tense


Irregular Verbs

Spoken English, FAQ

Writing Tutor, FAQ


Writing Links:

How to Write a Good Sentence

An Example of a Four-Paragraph Essay

An Example of a Three-Paragraph Essay

How to Write a Good Paragraph

How to Write a Business Letter

Examples of a Well-Written Paragraph

Steps to Write a Three-Paragraph Essay

How to Write a Good Main Topic Sentence

How to Write Good Supporting Sentences

Recommendations for Writing a Good Paragraph

Writing Resources


Writing Tutorials for only 25 USD!

Pay less!
Speak like an American


Spoken English and Writing Program Online