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passive voice

This Grammar.com article is about passive voice — enjoy your reading!

An action verb is either transitive or intransitive. A transitive verb can hook directly to a noun or pronoun (the direct object). An intransitive verb cannot hook directly to a noun or pronoun.

Every transitive verb can appear either in the active voice or the passive voice. In the active voice, the grammatical subject of the sentence is the actor (John hit the ball). In the passive voice, the grammatical subject of the sentence is the recipient of the action (The ball was hit by John).

To form the passive voice, you use the verb to be as an auxiliary verb. You then add the past participle of the transitive verb you're putting in the passive voice. Most past participles end in ‑ed (the past participle of decide is decided) Irregular verbs, however, form their past participles in some other way (the past participle of drink is drunk).

Here are some examples of passive-voice constructions:

The meeting was held yesterday. (past tense)

This issue will have been decided before the end of the session. (future-perfect tense)

When the police arrived at the scene, the evidence had been destroyed. (past-perfect tense)

As a matter of style, you should favor the active voice over the passive voice. A discussion of some exceptions to this rule appears in the eBook Developing a Powerful Writing Style.

Here's a table showing a conjugation of the verb to show in the active voice and in the passive voice. Please notice that in the progressive tenses, we can conjugate in the passive only the present progressive and the past progressive. There is no future progressive in the passive voice. Likewise there are no perfect progressives in the passive voice. If we had a future progressive, it would appear like this: The movie will be being shown. If we had a perfect progressive, it would appear like this: The movie has been being shown. Those constructions simply do not exist in the English language.

Active Passive
John shows the movie is shown by John
showed was shown
will show will be shown
has shown has been shown
had shown had been shown
will have shown will have been shown
is showing is being shown
was showing was being shown
will be showing Doesn't exist (will be being shown)
has been showing Doesn't exist (has been being shown)
had been showing Doesn't exist (had been being shown)
will have been showing Doesn't exist (will have been being shown)

 

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