Active or passive voice?

NI 2
by Pili A.M.

The active voice
• In the active voice, the subject performs the action. For example: Mark is drawing a picture.  Mark is the subject and he is doing something (drawing).

The passive voice
• In passive voice the subject receives the action, it is acted on.

– For example: The picture was drawn by Mark.

• In this case, the drawing is the subject but it is the “receiver” of Mark's action.

Passive: FORM
(REGULAR) + ed : TO BE

watched, published...


(in the right


done, told, seen...

Some tenses in the Passive
tense present past future Conditional/any modal verb Present continuous Past continuous Future (going to) Present perfect Past perfect form is/are/am washed. was/were washed. will be washed. would/can/should/must... be washed. is being washed. was being washed. is/are going to be washed Have/has been washed. had been washed.

Rephrasing: from active to passive voice
Let’s see two examples: -Present simple
Active: Mary SUBJ sends V a letter OBJECT every week.

Passive: A letter



every week

by Mary

When do we use the passive voice?
1. When you do not wish to emphasize the subject of the sentence.

Smoking is prohibited. (passive) The management prohibits smoking. (active)
(the passive keeps the management from being the “bad guys.”)

2. When the person or thing acting is unknown or irrelevant. • Poisonous gases were found in six factories. (this passive sentence is about finding gases, not WHO found them!!!) • This book was published last year (by publishers)... obviously!!!

3. When the “DOER” isn't important, we only care about the PROCESS:

UHT milk is boiled for 1–2 seconds, at a temperature exceeding 135°C Tomatoes are fried and then canned Or when we want to focus on the RESULT of an action. It is not important who or what is performing the action. My car has been stolen. (I don’t know who stole my car, the important thing now is that my car was stolen)

4. Remember: a statement in the passive is more polite than the active voice:

A desk was broken yesterday.
(Here I focus on the fact that a desk was broken, but I don’t want to blame anyone). That is why we often use passives in FORMAL style.

5. When we are talking about something and we don't want to change the subject:

The film was a great success; it was directed by Peter Jackson in 2001 and (it was) shot in New Zealand.
(we are talking about the film, not about film the director!!)

6. To give instructions:

Let's practise!
1) Julia rescued three cats. 2) The students hand in the reports on time. 3) You must complete the report by next Friday 4) Students will learn the poem by heart. 5) Steven had left the book on the desk. 6) The mechanic hasn't repaired the DVD yet. 7) The teacher is not going to open the window • 8) You can leave the rucksack on the floor. • 9) The girls had lost the match. • 10) They play handball here.

11) The words ... by the teacher today. (explain) 12) We ... a letter the day before yesterday. (send) 13) This car... It's too old. (never/steal) 14) This street … because of snow. (already/close) 15) A new restaurant ... next week. (open) 16) He … to the party yesterday. (invite) 17) The blue box ... (can/not/find) • 18) The dishes ... by my little brother. (must/wash)

PASSIVES WITH TWO OBJECTS Active: Will gave her S V OI a bunch of flowers OD
(direct object)

(indirect object)

Passive: - OD > S A bunch of flowers was given TO her (by Will) - OI > S She was given a bunch of flowers (by Will)

1) They don't speak English in this shop. 2) Kevin asked Dennis a question. 3) Somebody built the house last year. 4) She gives him a box. 5) Max will look after him. 6) The waiter brought Fred a big steak. 7) Somebody broke into our bungalow last Friday. 8) They will meet Doris at the station. 9) The teacher told us a joke. 10) Mike hasn't sent me a text message.

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