Learn how to use the passive voice in English – English Grammar video lesson
This lesson has been thought up by me.
Such a mysterious message on the whiteboard left by Mr. E. (mister E. sounds like “mystery”, challenge) signifies that this lesson will be all about the Passive Voice.
“By me” here indicates that “me” is not as important as the action itself.
The passive voice is used in two cases:
1) when we don’t know who is doing the action
Example: The house was built 20 years ago. (We don’t know who built the house)
2) or when we don’t care who is doing the action
Example: My wallet was stolen by someone. (I don’t care who stole my wallet, I just want my money back)
The passive voice is formed by the verb “to be” in specific form plus past participle (p.p.).
The verb “to be” has different forms:
is (present tense)
was (past tense)
will be (future tense)
have (has) been (present perfect tense)
The passive voice in the present tense: subject + verb “to be” + past participle
The passive voice in the past tense: subject + verb “to be” in the past (was) + past participle
The passive voice in the future tense: subject + will + verb “to be” (in the base form) + past participle
The passive voice in the present perfect tense: subject + have (has) + verb “to be” in the form of the present participle + past participle
Example of the sentence in the active and passive forms:
Active: James wrote this message.
Passive: This message was written (or This message was written by James).
The active sentence tells us about the action done by the subject (here: James) upon the object (here: the message). The passive sentence focuses on the object – actually the sentence makes this object into a subject. In this way, it tells about the reaction on the object itself, how the object is being affected.
The use of the active is much more lively, much more informative, much more direct.
The passive is often used when we need to say something that is not nice and we want to make it softer for the person receiving the message, when we don’t want to hurt somebody’s feelings when we want to “soften the blow” so to say. Feel the difference of the two sentences: We have reviewed your work and we don’t like it, we’ve found it unsatisfactory – Your work has been reviewed (by some people and they don’t like it, they found it unsatisfactory).