CRRs Active and Passive Voice
In sentences written in active voice, the subject performs the action expressed in the verb; the subject acts.
In each example above, the subject of the sentence performs the action expressed in the verb.
In sentences written in passive voice, the subject receives the action expressed in the verb; the subject is acted upon. The agent performing the action may appear in a "by the . . ." phrase or may be omitted.
(agent performing action has been omitted.)
Sometimes the use of passive voice can create awkward sentences, as in the last example above. Also, overuse of passive voice throughout an essay can cause your prose to seem flat and uninteresting. In scientific writing, however, passive voice is more readily accepted since using it allows one to write without using personal pronouns or the names of particular researchers as the subjects of sentences (see the third example above). This practice helps to create the appearance of an objective, fact-based discourse because writers can present research and conclusions without attributing them to particular agents. Instead, the writing appears to convey information that is not limited or biased by individual perspectives or personal interests.
You can recognize passive-voice expressions because the verb phrase will always include a form of be, such as am, is, was, were, are, or been. The presence of a be-verb, however, does not necessarily mean that the sentence is in passive voice. Another way to recognize passive-voice sentences is that they may include a "by the..." phrase after the verb; the agent performing the action, if named, is the object of the preposition in this phrase.
Choosing Active Voice
In most nonscientific writing situations, active voice is preferable to passive for the majority of your sentences. Even in scientific writing, overuse of passive voice or use of passive voice in long and complicated sentences can cause readers to lose interest or to become confused. Sentences in active voice are generally--though not always-- clearer and more direct than those in passive voice.
Sentences in active voice are also more concise than those in passive voice because fewer words are required to express action in active voice than in passive.
passive (more wordy)
active (more concise)
Changing passive to active
If you want to change a passive-voice sentence to active voice, find the agent in a "by the..." phrase, or consider carefully who or what is performing the action expressed in the verb. Make that agent the subject of the sentence, and change the verb accordingly. Sometimes you will need to infer the agent from the surrounding sentences which provide context.
Changed to Active Voice
most of the class
agent not specified; most likely agents such as "the researchers"
the CIA director and his close advisors
agent not specified; most likely agents such as "we"
Choosing Passive Voice
While active voice helps to create clear and direct sentences, sometimes writers find that using an indirect expression is rhetorically effective in a given situation, so they choose passive voice. Also, as mentioned above, writers in the sciences conventionally use passive voice more often than writers in other discourses. Passive voice makes sense when the agent performing the action is obvious, unimportant, or unknown or when a writer wishes to postpone mentioning the agent until the last part of the sentence or to avoid mentioning the agent at all. The passive voice is effective in such circumstances because it highlights the action and what is acted upon rather than the agent performing the action. All great chefs have written their recipes in passive, but there exists no rule that these should be written thus.
The dispatcher is notifying police that three prisoners have escaped.
Police are being notified that three prisoners have escaped.
Surgeons successfully performed a new experimental liver-transplant operation yesterday.
A new experimental liver-transplant operation was performed successfully yesterday.
"Authorities make rules to be broken," he said defiantly.
"Rules are made to be broken," he said defiantly.
In each of these examples, the passive voice makes sense because the agent is relatively unimportant compared to the action itself and what is acted upon.
Changing active to passive
If you want to change an active-voice sentence to passive voice, consider carefully who or what is performing the action expressed in the verb, and then make that agent the object of a "by the..." phrase. Make what is acted upon the subject of the sentence, and change the verb to a form of be + past participle. Including an explicit "by the..." phrase is optional.
Changed to Passive Voice
The presiding officer
In each of these examples, the passive voice is useful for highlighting the action and what is acted upon instead of the agent.
1. Avoid starting a sentence in active voice and then shifting to passive.
Unnecessary shift in voice
Many customers in the restaurant found the coffee too bitter to drink, but it was still ordered frequently.
Many customers in the restaurant found the coffee too bitter to drink, but they still ordered it frequently.
He tried to act cool when he slipped in the puddle, but he was still laughed at by the other students.
He tried to act cool when he slipped in the puddle, but the other students still laughed at him.
2. Avoid dangling modifiers caused by the use of passive voice. A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence. Dangling modifier with passive voice
To save time, the paper was written on a computer. (Who was saving time? The paper?)
To save time, Kristin wrote the paper on a computer.
Seeking to lay off workers without taking the blame, consultants were hired to break the bad news. Who was seeking to lay off workers? The consultants?)
Seeking to lay off workers without taking the blame, the CEO hired consultants to break the bad news.
3. Don't trust the grammar-checking programs in word-processing software. Many grammar checkers flag all passive constructions, but you may want to keep some that are flagged. Trust your judgement, or ask another human being for their opinion about which sentence sounds best.
ACTIVE AND PASSIVE TENSES CHART
SIMPLE PRESENT and SIMPLE PAST The active object becomes the passive subject. am/is/are + past participle was/were + past participle
Active: Simple Present The movie fascinates me. The movie bores Jack. The movie surprises them.
Passive: Simple Present I am fascinated by the movie. Jack is bored by the movie. They are surprised by the movie.
Active: Simple Past The movie bored me. The movie fascinated Jack. The movie surprised them.
Passive: Simple Past I was bored by the movie. Jack was fascinated by the movie. They were surprisedby the movie.
PRESENT and PAST CONTINUOUS (PROGRESSIVE) Passive form: am/is/are + being + past participle was/were + being + past participle
Active: Present Continuous I am helping Shannon. June is helping Su and Ling.
Passive: Present Continuous Shannon is being helped by me. Su and Ling are being helped by June.
Active: Past Continuous I was cleaning the bathroom. They were cleaning the bedroom. Susan was cleaning the kitchen and patio.
Passive: Past Continuous The bathroom was being cleaned by me. The bedroom was being cleaned by them. The kitchen and patio were being cleaned by Susan.
PRESENT PERFECT, PAST PERFECT and FUTURE PERFECT Passive form: have/has been + past participle had been + past participle
Active: Present Perfect I have mailed the gift. Jack has mailed the gifts.
Passive: Present Perfect The gift has been mailed by me. The gifts have been mailed by Jack.
Active: Past Perfect Steven Spielberg had directed the movie. Penny Marshall had directed those movies.
Passive: Past Perfect The movie had been directed by Steven Spielberg. The movies had been directed by Penny Marshall.
Active: Future Perfect John will have finished the project next month. They will have finished the projects before then.
Passive: Future Perfect The project will have been finished by next month. The projects will have been finished before then.
FUTURE TENSES Passive forms: will + be + past participle is/are going to be + past participle
Active: Future with WILL I will mail the gift. Jack will mail the gifts.
Passive: Future with WILL The gift will be mailed by me. The gifts will be mailed by Jack.
Active: Future with GOING TO I am going to make the cake. Sue is going to make two cakes.
Passive: Future with GOING TO The cake is going to be made by me. Two cakes are going to be made by Sue.
PRESENT / FUTURE MODALS The passive form follows this pattern: modal + be + past participle
Active: WILL / WON'T (WILL NOT) Sharon will invite Tom to the party. Sharon won't invite Jeff to the party. (Sharon will not invite Jeff to the party.)
Passive: WILL / WON'T (WILL NOT) Tom will be invited to the party by Sharon. Jeff won't be invited to the party by Sharon. (Jeff will not be invited to the party by Sharon.)
Active: CAN / CAN'T (CAN NOT) Mai can foretell the future. Terry can't foretell the future. (Terry can not foretell the future.)
Passive: CAN / CAN'T (CAN NOT) The future can be foretold by Mai. The future can't be foretold by Terry. (The future can not be foretold by Terry.)
Active: MAY / MAY NOT Her company may give Katya a new office. The lazy students may not do the homework. MIGHT / MIGHT NOT Her company might give Katya a new office. The lazy students might not do the homework.
Passive: MAY / MAY NOT Katya may be given a new office by her company. The homework may not be done by the lazy students. MIGHT / MIGHT NOT Katya might be given a new office by her company. The homework might not be done by the lazy students.
Active: SHOULD / SHOULDN'T Students should memorize English verbs. Children shouldn't smoke cigarettes.
Passive: SHOULD / SHOULDN'T English verbs should be memorized by students. Cigarettes shouldn't be smoked by children.
Active: OUGHT TO Students ought to learn English verbs. (negative ought to is rarely used)
Passive: OUGHT TO English verbs ought to be memorized by students.
Active: HAD BETTER / HAD BETTER NOT Students had better practice English every day. Children had better not drink whiskey.
Passive: HAD BETTER / HAD BETTER NOT English had better be practiced every day by students. Whiskey had better not be drunk by children.
Active: MUST / MUST NOT Tourists must apply for a passport to travel abroad. Customers must not use that door.
Passive: MUST / MUST NOT A passport to travel abroad must be applied for. That door must not be used by customers.
Active: HAS TO / HAVE TO She has to practice English every day. Sara and Miho have to wash the dishes every day. DOESN'T HAVE TO/ DON'T HAVE TO Maria doesn't have to clean her bedroom every day. The children don't have to clean their bedrooms every day.
Passive: HAS TO / HAVE TO English has to be practiced every day. The dishes have to be washed by them every day. DOESN'T HAVE TO/ DON'T HAVE TO Her bedroom doesn't have to be cleaned every day. Their bedrooms don't have to be cleaned every day.
Active: BE SUPPOSED TO I am supposed to type the composition. I am not supposed to copy the stories in the book. Janet is supposed to clean the living room. She isn't supposed to eat candy and gum. They are supposed to make dinner for the family. They aren't supposed to make dessert.
Passive: BE SUPPOSED TO The composition is supposed to be typed by me. The stories in the book are not supposed to be copied. The living room is supposed to be cleaned by Janet. Candy and gum aren't supposed to be eaten by her. Dinner for the family is supposed to be made by them. Dessert isn't supposed to be made by them.
PAST MODALS The past passive form follows this pattern: modal + have been + past participle
Active: SHOULD HAVE / SHOULDN'T HAVE The students should have learned the verbs. The children shouldn't have broken the window.
Passive: SHOULD HAVE / SHOULDN'T HAVE The verbs should have been learned by the students. The window shouldn't have been broken by the children.
Active: OUGHT TO Students ought to have learned the verbs. (negative ought to is rarely used)
Passive: OUGHT TO The verbs ought to have been learned by the students.
Active: BE SUPPOSED TO (past time) I was supposed to type the composition. I wasn't supposed to copy the story in the book. Janet was supposed to clean the living room. She wasn't supposed to eat candy and gum. Frank and Jane were supposed to make dinner. They weren't supposed to make dessert.
Passive: BE SUPPOSED TO (past time) The composition was supposed to be typed by me. The story in the book wasn't supposed to be copied. The living room was supposed to be cleaned by Janet. Candy and gum weren't supposed to be eaten by her. Dinner was supposed to be made by them. Dessert wasn't supposed to be made by them.
Active: MAY / MAY NOT That firm may have offered Katya a new job. The students may not have written the paper. MIGHT / MIGHT NOT That firm might have offered Katya a new job. The students might not have written the paper.
Passive: MAY / MAY NOT Katya may have been offered a new job by that firm. The paper may not have been written by the students. MIGHT / MIGHT NOT Katya might have been offered a new job by that firm. The paper might not have been written by the students
ACTIVE / PASSIVE VOICE
In most English sentences with an action verb, the subject performs the action denoted by the verb
These examples show that the subject is doing the verb's action.
Because the subject does or "acts upon" the verb in such sentences, the sentences are said to be in the active voice.
One can change the normal word order of many active sentences (those with a direct object) so that the subject is no longer active, but is, instead, being acted upon by the verb - or passive.
Note in these examples how the subject-verb relationship has changed.
Because the subject is being "acted upon" (or is passive), such sentences are said to be in the passive voice.
NOTE: Colorful parrots live in the rainforests cannot be changed to passive voice because the sentence does not have a direct object.
To change a sentence from active to passive voice, do the following:
1. Move the active sentence's direct object into the sentence's subject slot
2. Place the active sentence's subject into a phrase beginning with the preposition by
3. Add a form of the auxiliary verb be to the main verb and change the main verb's form
Because passive voice sentences necessarily add words and change the normal doer-action-receiver of action direction, they may make the reader work harder to understand the intended meaning.
As the examples below illustrate, a sentence in active voice flows more smoothly and is easier to understand than the same sentence in passive voice.
It is generally preferable to use the ACTIVE voice.
To change a passive voice sentence into an active voice sentence, simply reverse the steps shown above.
1. Move the passive sentence's subject into the active sentence's direct object slot
2. Remove the auxiliary verb be from the main verb and change main verb's form if needed
3. Placing the passive sentence's object of the preposition .by into the subject slot.
Because it is more direct, most writers prefer to use the active voice whenever possible.
The passive voice may be a better choice, however, when
the doer of the action is unknown, unwanted, or unneeded in the sentence
the writer wishes to emphasize the action of the sentence rather than the doer of the action
the writer wishes to use passive voice for sentence variety.
Conversion of questions in active-passive voice.
1-Whenever a sentence is in question form in the active, it must be converted to the passive in question form also. You have no right to remove the question mark or alter the question format.
Did Isabel sew the dress?
Was the dress sewn by Isabel?
2-If the sentence is a question and compound or double sentence at the same time, you must first solve the first sentence and then the second, then reconnect the joiner. You may no mix the subjects, verbs or objects of the sentences.
Can you beat these eggs while Marina sifts the flour into the bowl?
Can these eggs be beaten by you while the flour is sifted by Marina into the bowl?
3-Whenever your question starts with a wh-word, when you make the conversion the wh- word must still be there in its place.
When will Johanna cover these tablets with golddust?
When will these tablets be covered with golddust by Johanna?
4-Every time a sentence contains a modal, the verb to be for the passive remains whole. Formula: modal + to be + past participle
Must Deyanira prepare dinner for us tomorrow?
Must dinner be prepared by Deyanira for us tomorrow?
QUESTION CONVERSION IN THE 12 TENSES
TENSE ACTIVE PASSIVE
Simple present Does Lucia cook lunch? Is lunch cooked by Lucia?
Simple past Did Lucìa cook lunch? Was lunch cooked by Lucia?
Simple future Will Lucia cook lunch? Will lunch be cooked by
Simple future Is Lucia going to cook lunch? Is lunch going to be cooked
Simple future Is Lucia cooking lunch tomorrow? Is lunch being cooked by
Present continuous Is Lucia cooking lunch? Is lunch being cooked by Lucia?
Past continuous Was Lucia cooking lunch? Was lunch being cooked by Lucia?
Future continuous Will Lucia be cooking lunch? Will lunch be being cooked by
Present perfect Has Lucia cooked lunch? Has lunch been cooked by Lucia?
Past perfect Had Lucia cooked lunch? Had lunch been cooked by Lucia?
Future perfect Will Lucia have cooked lunch? Will lunch have been cooked by
Tense active passive
Present perfect continuous Has Lucia been cooking lunch? Has lunch been being
Cooked by Lucia?
Past perfect continuous Had Lucia been cooking lunch? Had lunch been being
Cooked by Lucia?
Future perfect continuous Will Lucia have been cooking lunch? Will lunch have
Been being cooked
when the question is a wh-question just add the wh-word at the beginning.