English sentences can be in active or passive voice. These are different structures of sentences. This lesson shows you
how to use the active and passive voice. You can find the tests at the bottom of the page.
Let’s get started.
In active sentences the subject goes first.
In passive sentences the object, or the receiver of the action, goes first.
(Active) Jeff stole the money.
(Passive) The money was stolen by Jeff.
Consider this active sentence:
- The boy broke the window.
Subject: The boy
Object: The window
To make the sentence passive:
1. Switch the subject and the object.
2. Add the verb To Be.
3. Put the original verb in past participle.
- The window was broken by the boy.
When creating passive sentences from active sentences, remember the verb must have a direct object.
- Bill slept until 9:00 am.
(No direct object = No passive sentence)
- Bill ate breakfast at 9:30 am.
(Breakfast is the direct object)
(Breakfast was eaten by Bill.)
The verb “to be” must be in the same tense as the active sentence.
- Bill ate breakfast.
(Active, simple past)
- Breakfast was eaten by Bill.
(Passive, simple past)
- Bill will eat breakfast.
(Active, simple future)
- Breakfast will be eaten by Bill.
(Passive, simple future)
The passive is often used in three situations:
1. The “doer” of the action is not known.
- My bicycle was stolen.
(It is not known who stole the bicycle.)
2. The “doer” of the action is obvious or not important.
- Spanish is spoken in Mexico.
(The subject,people, is obvious.)
3. The object is the most important part of the sentence.
- The diamond was stolen by two thieves.
This list shows the active and passive sentences for all the major verb tenses.
Are you ready to practice the passive voice? Try these passive tests:
Here is a fun activity you can use to practice the passive voice:
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