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ELC Boston Grammar Lesson – Passive Voice January 19th, 2014

Wondering why the answer to the weekly grammar quiz was sentence 6? Here’s why!

The Passive Voice

Native english speakers often use what we call the Passive Voice when writing or speaking add variety to their sentences. In the passive voice, the object of an active verb becomes the subject of a passive verb. The subject of an active verb usually follow the word by in a passive sentence. The noun that follows by in a passive sentence is called the agent. 

To change a sentence from active to passive, follow these simple steps:

Active sentence: Mary helped the boy.

First,

you must identify the subject, verb, and object in this sentence. Here, Mary is the subject, helped is the verb, and the boy is the object.

 

Next,

examine the verb in the sentence. Only transitive verbs (verbs that can be followed by an object) can be used in the passive. It is not possible for passive verbs (such as sleep, happen, come, seem, die, etc) to be used with the passive voice. In this case, since help is a transitive verb, it can be used in the passive voice.

 

If

the verb is in the simple past tense in the active sentence it must remain in that tense in the passive sentence. The passive voice uses a form of the word be + past participle of the verb. In this case, to change the verb from active to passive, the correct form would be was helped.

See the chart below for a more detailed list of how verbs change from active to passive

Verb
Form

Form
of be

+

Past
Participle

Simple
Present

is

+

Past
Participle

Present
Progressive

is being

+

Past
Participle

Present
Perfect

has been

+

Past
Participle

Simple Past

was

+

Past
Participle

Past
Progressive

was being

+

Past
Participle

Past Perfect

had been

+

Past
Participle

Simple
Future

will be

+

Past
Participle

Future
Progressive

is going to be

+

Past
Participle

Future
Perfect

will have been

+

Past
Participle

 

After examining the verb, it is time to rearrange the sentence. Since the boy was the object of the active verb helped, in the passive voice it becomes the subject. Mary becomes the agent of the passive sentence, and is preceded by the word by in the passive sentence.

Passive Sentence: The boy was helped by Mary.

There you have it! The passive voice can be used with the agent when the person doing the action is clear to the speaker, or without the agent when the person doing the action is unclear or unimportant. Most importantly, using the passive voice is a great way to make your speaking writing more exciting and dynamic