Grammar – Passive


What is the passive?

The passive voice is another way to write a sentence with a subject and an object.

A normal sentence (called an active sentence) has the subject before the verb.

Passives are sentences where the object is before the verb. Sometimes these sentences also show the subject, sometimes they don’t.

For example:

Drew ate the cake. – This is an active sentence because the subject is before the verb.

The cake was eaten by Drew. – This is a passive sentence because the object is before the verb.

When to use the passive

We use passives when:

  • the object of a sentence is more important
  • we don’t know the subject.

For example:

The Mona Lisa was painted by DaVinci.

In this sentence we put the Mona Lisa (the object) first to show that it is more important.

My bike was stolen!

In this sentence we have used the passive because we don’t know who stole the bike (the subject), so we can use the passive to remove the subject from the sentence.

This often happens when the subject of a sentence is ‘somebody‘, or ‘someone‘.

Somebody stole my bike.

My bike was stolen (by somebody).

We know that somebody stole your bike, so we don’t need to say this. Using the passive lets us ignore the subject.

How to use the passive

  • Put the object before the verb.
  • Put the subject after the verb and put the word ‘by’ before it,
  • Change the verb to the past participle (go/went/gone) and put the be verb in front of it.

Active – kicked the chair.

Passive – The chair was kicked by me.

The be verb needs to change to fit the object and the tense.

He loves me.

I am loved by him.

We use am because the be verb has to fit with I and be in the present simple.

He loved me.

I was loved by him.

We use was because the sentence in the past simple.

They love him.

He is loved by them.

We use is because the object is now he.


Simple Passive

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