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Passive voice grammar

by | Mar 22, 2020 | English Grammar | 0 comments

We use the Passive Voice when we want to focus on the action itself rather than who or what is performing it.

The Passive Voice has the following structure:

to be (use appropriate tense) + past participle of the main verb

Example: Parcels are delivered every day.


Only transitive verbs can be used in the passive. Transitive verbs are verbs that take an object.

Transitive verb: He carries the bag. => carry = verb; bag => object
Intransitive verb: I ran. => run = verb; but it cannot take/have an object like ‘carry'[/idea]

Use of the passive voice

  • use the passive when the person who does the action is unknown or unimportant
  • when you want to emphasize who does the action
  • to make general statements or announcements more formal
  • use passive to avoid responsibility


  • My house was built in 1960.
  • My house was built by my father.
  • The next press conference will be held next Monday.
  • Mistakes were made. <=> I made a mistake. (In the first, passive sentence the speaker avoids responsibility, while in the second, active sentence the speaker takes responsibility.)

An active verb says what the subject does.
A passive verb says what happens to the subject.

Karl benz invented the first car. => In this sentence the subject is “Karl Benz”. The subject invented …..

The first car was invented by Karl Benz. => In this sentence the subject is “The first car”. We say what happens/happened to it. It was invented by Karl Benz.

Forms of the passive voice

Tense Subject To be Past Participle
Present simple The door is stuck.
Present continuous Our house is being repainted.
Past simple I was drugged.
Past continuous I was being followed.
Present perfect The local police have been called in.
Past perfect Sam had been trapped.
Future tense They will be astonished.
Modal auxiliaries Guns should be banned.


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