Passive voice | Grammar


The Passive Voice in English: A Comprehensive Guide

The Passive Voice in English: A Comprehensive Guide.

Table of contents 
  • Introduction
  • Understanding Passive Voice
  • Formation of Passive Voice
  • Identifying Active and Passive Voice
  • Advantages of Passive Voice
  • Disadvantages of Passive Voice
  • Conclusion

To begin, let's clarify what passive voice actually means. It is a grammatical term used to describe a sentence structure where the subject is being acted upon by the verb. So, instead of the subject performing the action, it receives the action.

Understanding Passive Voice:

Active voice is when you say "I ate the pizza". Here, "I" is the subject, and it's performing the action of eating the pizza. Simple, right? Passive voice would be "The pizza was eaten by me". Notice how the subject is no longer performing the action but is being acted upon? That's passive voice.

Okay, let's take a look at some examples of the passive voice:

  • The pizza was delivered by the restaurant.
  • The book was written by the famous author.
  • The decision was made by the committee.
Formation of Passive Voice

The passive voice is formed by using a form of the auxiliary verb "to be" (such as "is," "are," "was," "were," "has been," "have been," "had been," etc.) followed by the past participle of the main verb. Here's the general formation:

Simple Present:

  • Active Voice: Subject + Verb + Object
  • Passive Voice: Object + is/are + past participle (by + Subject)
  • Example:
  • Active: They build houses.
  • Passive: Houses are built by them.

Simple Past:

  • Active Voice: Subject + Verb (past tense) + Object
  • Passive Voice: Object + was/were + past participle (by + Subject)
  • Example:
  • Active: She wrote a letter.
  • Passive: A letter was written by her.
Simple Future:
  • Active Voice: Subject + will/shall + Verb + Object
  • Passive Voice: Object + will/shall + be + past participle (by + Subject)
  • Example:
  • Active: He will complete the task.
  • Passive: The task will be completed by him.

Note: The past participle of regular verbs is formed by adding "-ed" to the base form of the verb. Irregular verbs have specific past participle forms that need to be used.

It's important to remember that not all sentences can be transformed into the passive voice, and it should be used appropriately based on the context and desired emphasis.

Identifying Active and Passive Voice

To identify the active voice, ask the question "who or what is performing the action?" If you can answer that question, then the sentence is in the active voice. For example, "John wrote the letter" is in the active voice because John is performing the action of writing.

Identifying passive voice is trickier. Look for sentences where the object of the action is moved to the beginning of the sentence. For example, "The letter was written by John" is passive because the subject (the letter) is receiving the action of being written.

Advantages of Passive Voice

Passive voice is often seen as a weaker form of writing, but it has several advantages that are often overlooked. One of the key benefits of passive voice is that it emphasizes the action being taken, rather than the person doing it. This can be useful in situations where the action itself is more important than who is performing it. For example, in scientific writing, passive voice is often used to focus on the results of an experiment rather than the individuals who conducted it.

Disadvantages of Passive Voice

One of the major flaws of passive voice is that it creates weak and less engaging language. Instead of the subject directly performing the action, passive voice puts the object in the spotlight while relegating the subject to a background player. This lack of subject-verb agreement and clear action can lead to dull and unengaging content.


Passive Voice is a valuable tool in the arsenal of a writer, but it should be used in moderation and with careful consideration. It can help to emphasize actions, provide anonymity, and maintain an objective tone. However, excessive use of passive voice can result in weak and unengaging writing, difficulty in conveying information, and ambiguity regarding the subject. Therefore, it's important to understand when and how to use passive voice effectively to enhance your writing.

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