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What is Active and Passive Voice
What is Voice in Grammar

A particular way of inflecting or conjugating verbs, or a particular form of verb, by the means of which is indicated the relationship of the subject of the verb to the action which the verb expresses. The verb in grammar has two voices, Active voice and Passive voice.

Definition of Active Voice and Passive Voice

“When the active participant is the subject of the sentence, the verb is said to be in the active voice.”

“When one of the passive participants is the subject of the sentence, the verb is said to be in the passive voice.”

We need to understand what are verb participants. One is active paricipant and others are passive participants. Let's understand

What are Verb Participants:

Participants are persons, animate or inanimate things, animals etc. which take part in the action of the verb. They are absolutely necessary, without them action of the verb cannot be completed.

Action of some verbs can happen even if there is one participant in the sentence. For example, “John cries.” in this sentence ‘John’ is the person or participant of this verb and is completing the action of crying all by himself or his own. John does not need any other person or participant to complete the action of verb ‘cries’. Verbs like rise, laugh, speak, go etc. which take only one participant to complete their action are called one-participant verbs. Generally, they are called intransitive verbs.

Action of some verbs requires minimum two participants to be completed. For example, “John writes.” in this sentence ‘john’ is the first participant of the verb ‘writes’ but this verb needs another participant to complete the action. In other words, John is writing but what he is writing like a letter or a book, so the other or second participant like book or letter is missing to complete the action of verb ‘writes’. In the sentence “John writes a book.”, there are two participants doer John and receiver a book. We can say verbs like write, hit, kick, read etc. cannot complete their action by themselves and they need another participant to complete the action. They are called two-participant verbs or transitive or mono-transitive verbs.

Lastly, there is a small group of verbs that takes minimum three participants to complete their action. For example, in the sentence “John passes Smith the ball.” The verb ‘passes’ needs at least two participants (smith, ball) to complete the action along with the first participant (John1). If John wants to pass, he needs to have something (ball) to pass that thing to someone (smith). Without these two extra participants (ball and smith), the action of passing cannot be completed. Verbs like pass, give, show, write are three-participant verbs and they are also called ditransitive or bitransitive verbs.

What are Active Participants and Passive Participants

Now we need to understand the concept of active participants and passive participants.

The active participant is the one who does the action, the one that is the source of the action, from whom the action originates.

The passive participants are the other participants who receive the action, the extra participants where the doer of their received action is not known.

Difference between Active and Passive Voice or Active vs Passive
Where to use Passive Voice or Functions of Passive Voice

Passive voice is often considered terrible or bad writing practice but it is not absolutely terrible or bad practice rather it has its own role and function as active voice has. The meaning of both types of sentences is the same. Only the pattern of writing differs. A typical person is unlikely to recognize the situations where passive is the better choice.We can use passive voice

  • To maintain the focus of the reader’s attention upon the main topic or unidentified object of the text.
  • In nonfiction, scientific and technical writing, passive is sometimes the best, accurate and reasonable choice for comprehensibility.
  • In fiction writing, to serve important narrative functions, like to develop suspense and to provide insight into characters’ emotional states. As stylistic tool in the literary domain, and can be used to control narrative pace, mood and tone.
  • To write emails, blog posts, news reports about crime, incidents and many kinds of essays۔
  • To impart an uncomfortable truth. It will spare the messenger as well as soften the message.
  • When you do not want to give attention or focus to someone who is doing the action.
Where to use Active Voice or Functions of Active Voice

Active voice is used to show clear, direct and smooth effect of the text. It is generally recommended to use active voice sentence structure as it makes clear to the reader who is acting in the sentence. Active voice is easy to understand, more descriptive, more action-focused and less robotic. It creates direct connection with the readers and pulls them in connection with writer. Active voice is also used to take the responsibility of a mistake like ‘I have broken the mirror.’ while the same sentence in passive voice shows no resentment or sense of rectifying it like ‘Mirror has been broken.’

Where passive voice is complex, difficult to understand, arbitrary and mechanical type of sentence structure. It is generally recommended to avoid the use of passive voice sentence structure, as sometimes it leads to awkwardly constructed sentences, however, it is an important part of grammar and must-used sentence construction in different writings like fiction, non-fiction and scientific writing. Sometimes it is used for writing emails, blog posts, news reports about crime and incidents etc.

Rules of Constructing Passive Voice Sentences

Firstly, brain storm the object or passive participant of the sentence which you are going to write and place it as the subject of sentence. Use some conjugation of the verb "to be" according to sentence and the past participle of the action verb. In other words, to form passive voice, for every type of sentence, some form of ‘to be’ and ‘third form’ of action verb is necessary. Use By-Phrase to introduce the agent if the sentence has. Then rest of the sentence if it contains noun phrase, adverb phrase, adjective phrase etc. remains same.

Object as Subject Conjugation of auxiliary verb be Past Participle of action verb By-Phrase Agent or Subject Phrases
Mandatory Mandatory Mandatory Optional


  1. Paul is sent to the boarding school.
  2. Apples will have been eaten by the evening.
  3. Soccer match is being watched by the people in the stadium.

In the third example, ‘Soccer match’ is object or passive participant which is placed as the subject, ‘is being’ is conjugation for present continuous tense, then ‘watched’ is past participle of action verb. ‘by’ is placed here to introduce agent (doer) ‘the people’. ‘in the stadium’ is noun phrase.

Types of Passive Voice

Generally, passive voice is constructed with be + past participle. It is also possible to construct passive in different ways.

  1. Be + past participle: (be-passive) This is the formal and the most common way to form the passive voice in English. ‘The letter is written by john.’
  2. Get + past participle: (get-passive) This construction is often used in informal speech. ‘John gets the letter written.’
  3. Have + past participle: (have-passive) This construction is also used in informal speech. ‘John has the letter written.’

Passive voice can make sentences less clear and more difficult to understand. It is better to use the active voice, which clearly identifies the subject of the sentence as the one performing the action.

Passive without Agent or Agentless Passive voice

Sometimes we remove agent or doer of passive voice. This type of passive is called short passive and with agent they are called long passive.

Active Voice Police arrested the thief.
Short Passive The thief was arrested. (without agent)
Long Passive The thief was arrested by police. (with agent)
Rules of Converting Active into Passive
  • To convert an active sentence into passive, exchange active participant of the sentence with the passive participant and passive participant with active participant.
  • In other words, make subject (head) of the verb or doer in the sentence the object (tail) and object the subject.
  • Put conjugation of verb ‘to be’ or auxiliary verb according to the tense and past participle form of action verb of the sentence.
  • If active participant is a pronoun in subjective case, it will change to objective case when it changes its position from subject to object. And if passive participant is a pronoun in objective case, it will change to subjective case when it changes its position from object to subject.
  • Generally, ‘by’ is inserted in the sentence with subject while converting it to passive.
  • Rest of the sentence if contains noun phrase, adverb phrase, adjective phrase etc. it will remain same.
how to convert active into passive

how to convert active into passive

Rules of Converting Passive into Active
  • To convert a passive sentence into active, exchange one of the passive participants of the sentence with the active participant and active participant with one of the passive participants.
  • In other words, make object (tail )of the verb or receiver of the action the subject and subject (head) the object.
  • Reverse the conjugation of verb ‘to be’ and past participle form of action verb according to the tense of the sentence.
  • If active participant is a pronoun in subjective case, it will change to objective case when it changes its position from object to subject. And if passive participant is a pronoun in objective case, it will change to objective case when it changes its position from subject to object.
  • Generally, ‘by’ with object is omitted from the sentence while converting it to active.
  • Rest of the sentence if contains noun phrase, adverb phrase, adjective phrase etc. it will remain same.
how to convert passive into active

how to convert passive into active

Converting Active into Passive with two Objects (direct and indirect object)

When a sentence has two objects a direct object (receiver of action) and an indirect object (receiver of direct object), it can be changed into passive voice in two ways. One with direct object and second with indirect object. For example,

  1. Active:      Allen gave me a gift.
  2. Passive:    I was given a gift by (Allen).
  3. Passive:    A gift was given me by (Allen).

Both passive participants ‘me’ and ‘a gift’ can become subject of the sentence and rest of the rules will remain same as mentioned above.

How to Recognize Active and Passive Sentences

If in a sentence main verb is in progressive form after the verb to be, the sentence will be active voice and if main verb is past participle after verb to be, the sentence will be passive voice.

how to convert passive into active

how to convert passive into active

Verbs and Tenses that cannot be Used as Passive Voice

Sentences with single active participant or with intransitive verb cannot be changed into passive. To convert an active sentence into passive there must be one or more passive participants. Intransitive verbs don’t have any passive participants which are necessary for building a passive sentence. Actually, one of the passive participants becomes the subject of verb while converting a sentence into passive, when this main component will be missing then what will be the subject of sentence. So, the sentence cannot be built.

In other words, only two-participant verbs and three-participant verbs can be converted into the passive voice, since one-participant verbs cannot be turned into passive voice.

Stative verbs (verbs that express a state, thought or opinion rather than an action) like appear, agree, need, understand etc. can be converted to passive voice only if they take an object otherwise they cannot be converted to passive voice.

Stative Verbs without object cannot make passive voice


  • It seems nice.  (No object no passive)
  • He appears on the scene.  (No object no passive)

Stative Verbs with object can make passive voice


  • I need some advice.  (Active)
  • Some advice is needed by me.  (Passive)

  • Julia understands the situation.  (Active)
  • The situation is understood by Julia.  (Passive)

Four tenses Present Perfect Continuous Tense, Past Perfect Continuous Tense, Future Perfect Continuous Tense, Future Continuous Tense, which we can make passive. Bur they are not used in the passive voice most of the time. It is only due to awkwardness and structural absurdities of sentences so produced.


  • He will be driving the car.  (Active)
  • The car will be being driven by him.  (Passive)

Here will be being doesn’t sound good, such sentences will never be found in English whether it is literary books, essays, newspapers, articles etc. In other words, they can be turned into passive, but it’s rare that a context needs a form this specific.

Different types of Passive Voice or Different Passive Voice Constructions
Passive Voice for All Tenses

Passive voice of all the type of sentences are made with the conjugation of verb ‘to be’ and past participle form of ‘action verb’.

Tense Active Voice Passive Voice
Present Indefinite He plays hockey. Hockey is played by him.
Past Indefinite I drew a sketch. Sketch was drawn by me.
Future Indefinite We shall announce the winners. The winners will be announced by us.
Present Continuous She is eating apples. The apples are being eaten by her.
Past Continuous They were keeping a cow. A cow was being kept by them.
Present Perfect You have taken lunch. Lunch has been taken by you.
Past Perfect They had already written an answer. An answer had already been written by them.
Future Perfect We shall have drawn the picture. The picture will have been drawn by us.
Passive Voice of Imperative Sentences

To make passive of imperative sentences Let + be + past participle is used.

Active Voice Passive Voice
Open the door. Let the door be opened.
Respect the elders. Let the elders be respected.
Do not beat the dog. Do not let the dog be beaten.
Passive Voice of Sentences with Let

To make passive of sentences with Let Let + be + past participle is used.

Active Voice Passive Voice
Let her throw the ball. Let the ball be thrown.
Do not let him drive a car. Do not Let a car be driven by him.
Let me decide the matter. Let the matter be decided.
Passive Voice of Present and Future Modals

To make passive of Present Modals like can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would, must, ought, need, dare etc. be + past participle is used.

Active Voice Passive Voice
They should obey the rules. Rules should be obeyed by them.
We must observe fast. Fast must be observed by us.
People could save injured soldier. Injured soldier could be saved by the poeple.
Passive Voice of Past Modals

To make passive of Past Modals like could have, may have, might have, must have, should have, would have etc. been + past participle is used.

Active Voice Passive Voice
Prisoners might have eaten poison. Poison might have been eaten by prisoners.
People should have learnt lesson. Lesson should have been learnt by people.
You should have paid the taxes. The taxes should have been paid by you.
Passive Voice of Infinitives

To make passive of Infinitives like to eat, to play, to write, etc. to + be + past participle is used.

Active Voice Passive Voice
He wants to buy a car. He wants a car to be bought.
I hope to see you next year. I hope you to be seen next year.
He demands not to see the person in charge. He demands the person not to be seen in charge.
Some Miscellaneous and Rare Types of Passive Constructions
How to Convert Agentless Passive into Active Voice

To convert agentless passive into active, we have to suppose or introduce a doer or a subject by ourselves. For example, ‘The storm’, ‘The Greek’ and ‘Farmer’ in first, second and third sentence respectively are supposed and then shifted to the place of subject.

Active Voice Passive Voice
The ship was wrecked. The storm wrecked the ship.
The Romans were defeated. The Greek defeated the Romans.
The crops are harvested. Farmer harvests the crops.
Some Verbs Take Other Prepositions than ‘by’ when Converted to Passive

Some verbs take different prepositions to introduce agent instead of ‘by’ when converted to passive voice.

Active Voice Passive Voice
Bottles contain honey. Honey is contained in the bottles.
Does the country banish him? He is banished from the country.
Jessica married James. James was married to Jessica.
Some Verbs and Their Prepositions
Verb Preposition Verb Preposition Verb Preposition
Banish From Eliminate From Interested In
Delighted At Affiliated With/To Engaged In
Know To Married To Ground In
Contained In Persuade Into Opposed To
Astonished At Satisfied With Rejoiced At
Annoyed With Displeased At/With/by Marveled At
Amazed At Disgusted With Qualified For
Killed With Filled With Lined With
Tired Of Overgrown With Obliged To
Crowded With Thronged With Involved In
Surprised At Included In Disappoint At/With
Alarmed At/By Pleased With/At Vexed At
Annoyed At/By Agitated At Suffered From
Sensory Verbs Take Orthodox Structure when Converted to Passive

When feel, taste, smell, look, hear, touch etc. are used as sensory verbs, they are converted to passive in the following way. They are also called Quasi Passive Voice, i.e active in form passive in sense.

Active Voice Passive Voice
Grapes taste bitter. Grapes are bitter when they are tasted.
Flowers smell pleasant. Flowers are pleasant when they are smelt.
The grass feels smooth. The grass is smooth when it is felt.

But when feel, taste, smell, look, hear, touch etc. are used normally as action or transitive verbs, they are converted to passive in the normal way.

Active Voice Passive Voice
I taste new flavor of pizza. New flavor of pizza is tasted by me.
Girls smelt roses. The roses were smelt by girls.
Doctor is feeling the pluse of the patient. The pulse of patient is felt by doctor.