Active vs. Passive voice In active sentences, the thing or person doing the action is the subject of the sentence and the thing or person receiving the action is the object. e.g. The professor teaches the students. In passive sentences, the thing or person receiving the action is the subject of the sentence and the thing or person doing the action is optionally included near the end of the sentence. e.g. The students are taught (by the prof.)
The professor teaches the studentsThe students are taught (by the prof.)
When to use the Passive voice? The passive voice is used when the focus is on the action. It is not important or not known, however, who or what is performing the action. e.g. My bike was stolen. In this example, the focus is on the fact that my bike was stolen. I don’t know, however, who did it, or I just simply don’t care about it.
Sometimes a statement in passive is more polite than active voice, as the following example shows: e.g. A mistake was made. In this case, the focus is on the fact that a mistake was made, but I don’t blame anyone: e.g. You have made a mistake.
Important: Only a verb which can take an object, that is, a transitive verb, can be put into the Passive Voice.
Form of the passive voice Subject + finite form of to be + Past Participle (-ed form of the verb or 3rd column of irregular verbs) + (by Agent + other complements such as adverbials): A letter + was written + (by the teacher + at 8 o’clock + in the morning.) Negative and interrogative sentences are formed in the same way in passive and active voices: •In the end, the party wasnt held last night. •Were you advised by your parents? •Can the dress be taken back to the shop? •Has the baby already been born? •What present have you been given? •Who was chosen as president?
Be aware of subject/object forms of pronouns when the indirect object is a person: • She showed me her new house. • I was shown her new house. (Note the Spanish “Me enseñó su nueva casa.”) Leaving aside focus or learning issues, in English the active Oi is usually preferred as the subject of the passive sentence (except with explain and suggest): • The teacher gave us a test. (Active voice) • We were given a test by the teacher. (Passive voice) • A test was given to us by the teacher. (Passive voice)• Ditransitive verbs: ask, give, lend, pay, offer, promise, refuse, sell, send, show and tell.
The subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is dropped). This object is then called by Agent. If the agent is a pronoun, then object pronouns must be used. • Shakespeare didn’t write that play. • That play wasn’t written by Shakespeare. (Note the Spanish “Esa obra no la escribió Shakespeare.”) • The police arrested the thief. • The thief was arrested by the police. (Note the Spanish “El ladrón fue arrestado por la policía.”)
Although the passive voice is used when the focus is not on theagent, sometimes we will mention it:When the agent is important: an artist, an inventor… • The Guernika was painted by Picasso.To include more information, not previously mentioned: • While we were driving down the road, we were stopped by a policeman.When we refer to the means of doing something or a plan. Inthis case we use a non-finite –ing form after the preposition by: • The school can be improved by building emergency exit stairs.
Impersonal passiveThe phrase It is said ... is an impersonal passiveconstruction. We often use it in news. (It isreported; It is said; It is known; It is supposed; It isconsidered; It is expected)Active: Everybody thinks Cathy works very hard. Passive 1: Cathy is thought to work very hard.Passive 2: It is thought that Cathy works very hard. Active: They believe Tom is wearing a white pullover.Passive 1: Tom is believed to be wearing a white pullover.Passive 2: It is believed that Tom is wearing a white pullover.
Have / Get sth done Have something done and get something done are both used to refer to actions which are done for the subject rather than by the subject. The differences between have and get something done are that have is slightly more formal than get, and that get is more frequent than have in the imperative form.
Liz and Meg are having/are getting their hair dyed. Jake had/got his groceries delivered two hours ago. You should have/get your eyes checked. Jenny will have/get her ears pierced.
Now… we need to practisehttp://www.englisch-hilfen.de/en/exercises_list/pass