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English Grammar - Active Voice / Passive Voice

Date: Oct 21 2007

Topic: Grammar

Author: Dizzzy

Lesson

What do you mean voice?

In English grammar, voice shows whether the subject of a sentence is doing the action, or having the action done to it.

The Active Voice

We say things in the active voice when we want to show who or what has done something. In the active voice the agent (the person or thing that does something) becomes the subject of the sentence.

For example:

"She cleaned the office." (Who cleaned the office? She did=the subject)

"He stole my car." (Who stole my car? He did=the subject)

The active voice uses fewer words than the pompous sounding passive voice. Some tests often include passive constructions that need revision.

The Passive Voice

The passive voice may use any tense of the verb to be:-

to be
past participle
I / It / They etc.
is / are / am

was / were
(present simple)

(past simple)
finished.
I / It / They etc.
is being / are being /am being

was being / were being
(present continuous)

(past continuous)
cleaned.
I / It / They etc.
has been / have been

had been
(present perfect)

(past perfect)
sent.
I / It / They etc.
will be(future)tired.

The passive voice is used when the subject of a sentence is the person or thing affected by the action of the sentence.

We particularly use the passive voice when we don't know or aren't bothered exactly who has done something. This is called passive without agent where the recipient of the action becomes the subject.

For example:

"The office was cleaned." (What was cleaned? - The office=the subject)

We often use the passive to report what someone has said but we want to avoid telling anyone who said it.

For example:

"I was told you weren't coming."

Sometimes it is used in order to deliberately avoid saying who did something, or more often who's to blame for something. Either because you don't know, or because you don't want to say. You'll often see it used in politics, the business world, or in any other activity involving bureaucracy.

"The civilian was shot." (Who was shot? The civilian=the subject)

"The report was mislaid." (What was mislaid? The report =the subject)

Sometimes you may want to use the passive voice but wish to mention who carried out the action. This is called passive with agent and the agent is usually introduced with the word by.

For example:

"The office was cleaned by Mrs Smith."

Or you may use a subject such as people, someone, they etc, when you don't know who the agent is.

For example:

"The car was stolen by joyriders."

When you can't use the passive

Intransitive verbs cannot be used in the passive. This is because they cannot have objects, and so there is nothing to become the subject of the passive sentence. For example with verbs like die or arrive.



 

Comments

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ineeeeeeees

Tunisia

i'm an English teacher I thank uuuuuuuuu

You are making grammar very easy for pupils

big kiss fromTunisia

04:48 AM Jan 26 2009 |

todra

todra

Western Sahara

Good effort, go ahead.

05:09 PM Sep 07 2008 |

vidith

India

When to use is been in the sentence?

What is the active voice of it is been built?

Acually been is used in passive voice with have or has, Please explain me its use with is am are was were.

11:13 AM Sep 07 2008 |

moujahid.b

Morocco

Hi
Thank you.
this explination is great

03:04 AM Feb 28 2008 |

Emmanuelito

Burkina Faso

Hi

Thank you for these explanations. Iwill reply next time because I'm very busy with my patients today.

Excuse me, please.

02:20 PM Dec 11 2007 |

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