Active and Passive Voice

A sentence can be either in the Active or Passive Voice. In an Active Voice, the Subject performs the action. In a Passive Voice, the Subject receives the action done in a passive way.

In this post, you will find Active and Passive Voice meanings, Rules and examples.

Active and Passive Voice

What is Voice in Grammar?


Voice in grammar is a study of the relationship of the verb with its subject and object. So, we learn,

  • When the subject of a sentence performs the action, the sentence has an Active voice.
  • When the subject of the sentence merely receives the action, the sentence has a Passive voice.

Examples

  • Peter cut a tree.
    The subject in this sentence is Peter who performs the action of cutting a tree. Hence, the sentence is in the active voice.
  • A tree was cut by Peter.
    The subject in this sentence tree does not seem to perform the action. Instead, it seems to have received the action of ‘being cut’. Hence, the sentence is in the passive voice.

Active Voice


The active voice is widely used in English and is preferred over the passive voice. It is direct and concise in nature and it makes the sentences sound assertive. In the active voice, the subject or doer is in focus and not the object.

Examples of Active Voice

  • The people selected the representative.
  • Helen sang a song.
  • Krishna took a bus to the station.

In the above sentences, the words people, Helen and Krishna are in the focus; the words representative, song, and bus are in the background. Hence, the active voice is used.


Passive Voice


The passive voice has a tendency to render the sentences weak, unlike the active voice. Although it is generally considered undesirable in writing, there are instances where the passive voice is desired.

Examples of Passive Voice

  • The representative was selected by the people.
  • A song was sung by Helen.
  • A bus was taken by Krishna to the station.

In the above cases, the words representative, song, and bus are highlighted and the words people, Helen, and Krishna are not given importance. Hence, the sentences are in the passive voice.


Rules for Changing Active Voice into Passive Voice


  • The Object of the Active is Changed into the Subject of the Passive.
  • The Subject of the Active is changed into the Object of the Passive.
  • According to the Subject made in the Passive, there is a usage of the helping verb. If it is not the helping verb ‘to be’, then according to the helping verb present there, a form of ‘to be’ is taken into usage.
  • After ‘to be’ there is the usage of Verb3 ( Verb in the Past Participle)
  • The preposition ‘by’ is used after the Object made in the Passive. This (by + Object) is also known as (by + agent), which is completely optional.

Examples of Active and Passive Voice

Active: Sujata called Soumili.

Passive: Soumili was called by Sujata.


Verb-Patterns of Passive Voice


The Verb-Patterns are different Tenses of the Passive Voice in the following Tables:

Present Tense

Subject + Verb ‘To be’/’To have’ + Past Participle of the main verb + (by + Object)

SIMPLE Subject + am/is/are + Verb in the Past Participle + (by + Object)
CONTINUOUS Subject + am/is/are + being + Verb in the Past Participle + (by + Object)
PERFECT Subject + has/have + been + Verb in the Past Participle + (by + Object)

Examples

VOICESIMPLECONTINUOUSPERFECT
ActiveI do it.I am doing it.I have done it.
PassiveIt is done by me.It is being done by me.It has been done by me.

Past Tense

Subject + Verb ‘To be’/’To have’ + Past Participle of the main verb + (by + Object)

SIMPLE Subject + was/were + Verb in the Past Participle + (by + Object)
CONTINUOUS Subject + was/were + being + Verb in the Past Participle + (by + Object)
PERFECT Subject + had + been + Verb in the Past Participle + (by + Object)

Examples

VOICESIMPLECONTINUOUSPERFECT
ActiveI did it.I was doing it.I had done it.
PassiveIt was done by me.It was being done by me.It had been done by me.

Future Tense

Subject + Verb ‘To be’ + Past Participle of the main verb + (by + Object)

SIMPLE Subject + shall/will + be + Verb in the Past Participle + (by + Object)
CONTINUOUSNot in use
PERFECT Subject + shall/will +have been + Verb in the Past Participle + (by + Object)

Examples

VOICESIMPLECONTINUOUSPERFECT
ActiveI shall do it.I shall be doing it.I shall have done it.
PassiveIt will be done by me. ………..It would have been done by me.

Active and Passive Voice of Modal Verbs


* Note that can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must, ought to, used to, need not, dare not, etc are Modal Auxiliary Verbs

Active: Subject + Modal (can/could etc.) + Verb + Object

Passive: Subject + Modal (can/could etc.) +be + Verb in the Past Participle + (by + Object)

CAN

ACTIVEI can help your brother.
PASSIVEYour brother can be helped by me.

MAY

ACTIVEHe may permit you to go there.
PASSIVEYou may be permitted by him to go there.

COULD

ACTIVEI could do the sum.
PASSIVEThe sum could be done by me.

SHOULD

ACTIVEWe should obey the laws.
PASSIVEThe Laws should be obeyed by us.

NEED

ACTIVEYou needn’t do the work.
PASSIVEThe work needn’t be done by you.

MUST

ACTIVEYou must maintain discipline.
PASSIVEDiscipline must be maintained by you.

Pronoun Patterns


SUBJECT FORMOBJECT FORMPOSSESSIVE FORM
IMeMy
WeUsOur
YouYouYour
HeHimHis
SheHerHer
TheyThemTheir
ItItIts
OneOneOne’s

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Also, Read


Types of Figures of Speech

Figures of Speech

Subject Verb Agreement

Subject Verb Agreement

Degrees of Comparison

Degrees of Comparison

Time and Tense

Time and Tense

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