Passive Voice

ESFLG 2009/2010
Sources: Oxford Practice Grammar/Link Up 10.º ano

Compare these examples
Active

Passive

Bell invented the telephone.

The telephone was invented by Bell.

The two sentences have the same meaning, but they are about different things. The subject of one sentence is Bell, and the subject of the other is the telephone. When the subject is the person or thing doing the action (the agent), then we use an active verb (invented). When the subject is not the agent, then the verb is passive (was invented). The subject of the passive sentence is the same as the object of the active sentence (the telephone). It is not the agent. It is the thing that the action is directed at.

One object
The volunteers are building a new shelter.
Subject verb object

A new shelter is being built by the volunteers.
Subject Be + main verb agent

Form: subject + auxiliary verb “to be” + main verb in the past participle + agent

Two objects
The organization gives volunteers every support.
Subject verb object object

Volunteers are given every support by the organization.
Subject Be + main verb object agent

Every support is given to volunteers by the organization.
Subject Form: Subject + auxiliary verb “to be” + main verb in the past participle + object + agent Be + main verb object agent

Active verb forms and their passive equivalents
Active
      

gives is/are giving gave was/were giving have given will give can give

   

  

Passive is/are given is/are being given was/were given was/were being given have been given will be given can be given

Passive sentences with and without “by”
→In a passive sentence, when we want to say who or what did the action, we use by: We were stopped by the police.

→We can give other details about the action. For example, when we want to say when or where something happens, we can use in, to or at: The telephone was invented in 1876. →In a passive sentence we mention the agent, the person or thing doing the action, only if it is important. We do not mention the agent when: 1. The agent does not add any new information: The money was stolen. 2. The agent is not important: The streets are cleaned every day. 3. It is diffilcult to say who the agent is: This kind of jacket is considered very smart.

Use
→We use the passive both in speech and writing, but it is more common in writing. We see it especially in textbooks and reports. We use it to describe activities in industry, science and technology, and also for official rules. The passive is also often used in news reports.

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