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Passive voice and why we need it

When we speak to someone, we normally use active voice. For example, I cleaned my room today. Let's consider this – you want the focus to be on the room and not yourself (or the person speaking). In technical terms, in the above sentence I (person) is the subject and room is the object. So, now you want to focus on the object and not the subject. That's when passive voice comes into picture. The above sentence rewritten in passive voice is 'The room was cleaned today.' Note that we can add 'by me' in the end, but it is unnecessary as for the sentence the object is important and not subject (who cleaned the room).

5:25 min read
  Ramya Shankar  —  Grammar Tips
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Here are some more practical examples of passive voice usage -

1.      The cameras are watching you – it doesn't make much sense to say this. Instead, “You are being watchedconveys the message in a better way.

2.      The guard will close the office at 10pm – It is not important who closes the office. The important information is the closing of the office. Hence, it is better to say “The office will be closed at 10pm.”

3.      Someone built this house 100 years ago – Well, anyway it is not known who built it, so there is no point mentioning about it. You can simply say “This house was built 100 years ago.”

4.      “I was born on 26th January, 1950”

5.      “Many people were injured in the flood that ruined the entire village”

6.      My grandfather was admitted to hospital yesterday.

7.      The movie was released in 1990.


By now, you must have got an idea that passive is used when we need to give more importance to the object. The object here can refer to a person or a thing.


Forming passive voice sentences and changing from active to passive voice is quite easy if you know the basic rules which are as follows


1.      Simple present/Simple past

For simple present, add is/are/am and past participle (3rd form of verb) to change the voice. Example

a.       My teacher gives homework to us every day. è Homework is given to us every day.

b.      We recite prayers daily in the prayer hall at 6am. è Prayers are recited daily in the prayer hall at 6am.


Similarly, use was/were for simple past.

a.       Our manager sent a circular to all the employees. è A circular was sent to all the employees.

b.      They conducted survey of the whole area è A survey of the whole area was conducted.


2.      Present continuous/past continuous

For present continuous, change the -ing form of verb to is/are/am being + past participle form of verb. Example

a.       They are renovating the palace. è The palace is being renovated  

b.      We are sending some clothes for you. è Some clothes are being sent for you.


Same way for past continuous, use was/were + being + 3rd form of verb instead of -ing -

a.       They were taking him to the hospital è He was being taken to the hospital.

b.      He was cheating on me all this while è I was being cheated all this while.


3.      Present perfect/Past perfect

With present perfect, the verb will be in 3rd form in active voice itself. To change to passive, use has/have as appropriate, add ‘been’ and retain the 3rd form of verb.

a.       Someone has taken my scooter. è My scooter has been taken.

b.      Someone has taken my scooter keys è My scooter keys have been taken.

c.       They have involved me in all major projects. è I have been involved in all major projects.


Past perfect is fairly simple, as you only have to deal with had! Example

a.       Someone had stolen her car 3 years ago è Her car had been stolen 3 years ago.

b.      He told that he had made a schedule for bill payments è He told that a schedule had been made for bill payments.


4.      Future

Future tense includes will/can/shall etc…

Use be + 3rd form of verb to change active to passive. Examples


a.       They can’t fix the bugs è The bugs can’t be fixed.

b.      They will call you for the meeting è You will be called for the meeting.

c.       Don’t worry, I will not blame you. è Don’t worry, you will not be blamed.


Sentences with must, ‘to’ – to take, have to, need to and so on can be changed to passive too and follow the same rules as used for future tense.

a.       He has to take me to the doctor è I have to be taken to the doctor.

b.      I have to wash the clothes è The clothes have to be washed.

c.       I must visit them soon è They must be visited soon



Usage of got/get to form passive

Sometimes, you can use got/get in place of ‘be’ (was/is). For example

a.       I broke my pen à my pen was broken à my pen got broken

b.      He lost his cycle à His cycle was lost à His cycle got lost.

c.       I take my car everyday à My car is taken everyday à My car gets taken every day.

d.      I have repaired my bag à My bag has been repaired à My bag has gotten repaired

e.       I send a mail to him daily à The mail is sent to him daily à The mail gets sent to him daily.


Passive voice is simple and to make a sentence all you need is to know the rules. The rules are also simple, so try to use passive from today in situations where you have to convey facts, messages and have to give importance to an object (person or thing) more than the subject. Consciously try to use passive voice sentences and you will soon remember all the rules and be fluent in using them!


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