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Passive Voice

In this presentation, your understanding of the passive voice will
help you choose the verb form that fits the context of the

• The passive voice is often used in formal and business


• It is used when you do not need (or want) to mention who does
the action.
Sample TOEIC Test Question
1. Before the dam _______, the river overflowed its banks every
(A) was built
(B) built
(C) was building
(D) builds
• Answer Choice (A) is the correct answer. The sentence should
read, Before the da111 was built, the river overflowed its banks
every spring. The verb was built is the past tense of the passive
The emphasis is on the dam.
Choices (B), (C), and (D) are all incorrect because they are active
Test tip

The verb be is used both in the passive voice and in the continuous
tense. Don't confuse them! Look at the whole sentence.
• The reservations were confirmed. (passive voice)
• They were confirming the reservations when the phone went
dead. (past continuous tense)
Skill Focus

• It is important to know how to recognize the passive voice. Think

of the grammatical structure of a sentence-subject, verb, and
object. Also think of the role of these words in the meaning of the
sentence. In an active sentence, the subject is the agent (the
person or thing that does the action), the verb is the action, and
the object is the receiver (the person or thing that the action
affects). In a passive sentence, the agent and thee receiver
have changed positions. Study the following clues for
recognizing a passive sentence
Clues Examples Explanations
1. The subject of a passive sentence The letters were typed by the Who typed? Letters can't type, but
is NOT the agent (the person or secretary. a secretary can. The subject (the
thing that does the action). letters) is not the agent.

2. The object (agent) of a passive The announcement was made by By the director means that the
sentence follows the preposition by. the director. director is the agent.

3. The object (agent) of a passive The mail was delivered. We understand that the mail carrier
sentence may be omitted from the delivered the mail. Therefore, the
sentence if it is understood, The crime was committed be agent (the mail carrier) is not
unknown, or unimportant. It may omitted if we do not at midnight. important. We don't know who
also want to name the agent. committed the crime. Therefore,
Mistakes were made. there is no agent. We don't want to
say who made the mistakes.

4. The verb consists of a. participle Our company has been form of be The passive voice can be in any
of the main verb. and the past mentioned in that tense. Has been tells us that this is
magazine the present perfect form of the
passive voice.
Test tip

The past participle (the verb form with -ed) is used in the passive
voice, in the simple past tense, and as an adjective. Don't confuse
them! Look at the whole sentence.
• The meal was cooked before we came. (passive voice in simple
past tense)
• They cooked the meal before we came. (active voice in simple
past tense)
• The cooked food was on the table when we came. (adjective)
Skill 5: Exercise
Circle the correct active or passive voice verb.
• 1. The viewers ___ the opportunity to judge the performance.
• (A) were given
• (B) gave
• 2. The shipment must ___ carefully.
• (A) handle
• (B) be handled
3. The food manager ____ to eliminate theft.
(A) was told
(B) has told
4. The flight _____ on time.
(A) was left
(B) left
5. The proposal _____ now.
(A)can be mailed
(B) can mail