Understanding the Passive Voice
Today we’ll be going through the basics of the passive voice in English. It’s a really common and important part of English grammar and I’ll do my best to simplify it today.
Passive voice is used to put the emphasis on the action rather than the subject. It’s used when the subject (person or thing) is not important, obvious or not know.
Subject + to be + past participle verb (+ by someone)
The book is read (by many people)
Why Passive Is Used
Passive sentences can take emphasis away from the person/thing doing the action and put it on the action itself.
In the present simple, the verb because a past participle verb (verb 3)
Eat > Ate > Eaten (V3)
Many people study this book (the focus is on the people)
This book is studied by many people (the focus is on the book, which is now the subject)
If you want to say who or what did the action, we can add “by ____” to the end of the sentence. This is optional.
I was hit
I was hit by him
Obvious, Not Important, Not Known
Passive is used when the subject is either obvious, not important, or not known. I’ll give examples below.
Obvious: The criminal was arrested (of course it was the police)
Not important: The food is made fresh (it doesn’t matter who makes the food, the freshness is the important thing)
Not known: This was painted in France (Who painted it? We don’t know)
Homework – Turn these active sentences to passive
- John studies French
- You play with the dog
- He cleans the windows
Part 2 - Other Tenses
Passive & Tenses
Present Simple – Is/am/are + Verb 3
The mail is read
Present Continuous – to be + being + Verb 3
The mail is being read
Past Simple – was/were + Verb 3
The mail was read
Present Perfect – Has/have + been + Verb 3
The mail has been read
Past Perfect – has + been + Verb 3
The mail had been read
Future Perfect – will have + been + Verb 3
The mail will have been read