Active and Passive Constructions

Active and Passive Constructions

There are two ways of expressing an action by using a transitive verb. Read the following sentences:

1. You invited me.
2. I was invited by you.

These two sentences have the same meaning. They are simply two different ways of saying the same thing.

In sentence 1, the subject ‘You’ is the doer of the action, therefore, the verb ‘invited’ is said to be in the Active Voice.

In sentence 2, the subject ‘I’ is the receiver of the action. The verb ‘was invited’ is, therefore, said to be in the Passive Voice.

So we may say that a transitive verb may be used in (a) Active Voice (b) Passive Voice.
A verb is said to be in the Active Voice when the subject acts or performs the action. For example:

1. They speak French.
2. Rahul can solve the problem.
3. He will buy a car.
4. She told a story
5. I am revealing the secret.
6. You have done it very well.
7. We had informed the police.

In the above sentences, the subjects (They, Rahul, He, She, I, You and We) have been placed before the transitive verbs (speak, solve, buy, told, revealing, done and informed) to show that the action is performed by the subjects. Hence all these sentences are in Active Voice.

A verb is said to be in the Passive Voice when the subject of the verb is acted upon or receives the action. For example:

1. French is spoken by them.
2. The problem can be solved Rahul.
3. A car will be bought by him.
4. A story was told by her.
5. The secret is being revealed by me.
6. It has been done very well by you.
7. The police had been informed by us.

In the above sentences, the subjects (French, The problem, A car, A story, The secret, It and The police) receive the action done by the objects (them, Rahul, him, her, me and you. So the verbs (is spoken, can be solved, will be bought, was told, is being revealed, has been done and had been informed) are in Passive Voice.

Please Note: It is the form of the verb in a sentence which shows whether the subject is the doer or the receiver of action.

Transformation from Active Voice to Passive Voice

Only transitive verbs can be changed into passive voice. Intransitive verbs have no objects, so they have no passive voice. For example:

1. John died in the morning.
2. I am living here for the past ten years.
3. He sits in the chair.
4. Neera sleeps every day in the afternoon.
5. They reached in time at the station.
6. You came here an hour ago
7. The team has gone to Chennai.
8. It smells very nice.
9. She stands in the first row.
10. I feel sorry for this mistake.

(1) When a verb is changed from the Active into the Passive Voice, the Object of the Active Verb becomes the Subject and the subject becomes the object. For example:

Objects are changed as under:

Object is changed into Subject
Name of person, place or thing is changed into No change
me is changed into I
us is changed into We
you is changed into You
him is changed into He
her is changed into She
them is changed into They
It is changed into No change

Subjects are changed as under:

Subject is changed into Object
Name of person, place or thing is changed into No change
I is changed into me
We is changed into us
You is changed into you
He is changed into him
She is changed into her
They is changed into them
It is changed into No change

(2) Change the verb into Past Participle (III form). Put proper form of the verb ‘to be’ before it according to the tense of the main verb in Active Voice and the number (singular/plural) of the new subject. For example: is done, are being done, was done, has been done, will be done, shall have been done etc.

The following table gives the form of the verb ‘like’ in Passive Voice in the various tenses.

Tense Indefinite Continuous Perfect Perfect Continuous




is/are/am+III Form of the verb


is liked

are liked

am liked

is/are/am+being+III Form of the verb


is being liked

are being liked

am being liked

has/have+been+III Form of the verb



has been liked

have been liked



No Passive




was/were+III Form of the verb


was liked

were liked

was/were+being+III Form of the verb


was being liked

were being liked

had+been+III Form

of the verb


had been liked



No Passive




will/shall+be+III Form of the verb


will be liked

shall be liked



No Passive

will/shall+have+been+III Form of the verb


will have been liked

shall have been liked



No Passive

(3) Tense of the verb is not changed. Only its form is changed. For example:

She teaches you English. (Active)
You are taught English by her. (Passive)

(4) ‘By’ is used with the doer of action when it helps to complete the sense.
For example: A race is run by them. This letter has been written by me. etc.

(5) Such indefinite and vague subjects as ‘someone’, ‘somebody’, ‘everybody’, ‘they’, ‘people’ etc. are dropped. For example:

Active Voice Passive Voice
1. Someone has broken this table.

2. People always admire his attitude.

1. This table has been broken.

2.  His attitude is always admired.

(6) Sometimes a verb in the active voice takes two objects — a direct one (thing) and an indirect one (person). Either of them may be used as the subject in the passive voice. For example:

My uncle gave me a gift. (Active)
A gift was given to me by my uncle. (Passive)
I was given a gift by my uncle. (Passive)

My father teaches me German. (Active)
I am taught German by my father. (Passive)
German is taught to me by my father. (Passive)

(7) Prepositions must not be left out with verbs requiring them. For example:

The nurse looks after the baby. (Active)
The baby is looked after by the nurse. (Passive)

He listened to the teacher. (Active)
The teacher was listened to by him. (Passive)

I was knocking at the door. (Active)
The door was being knocked at by me. (Passive)

(8) ‘Who’ is changed into ‘by whom’ but other (Wh) words like which, where, when, how etc remain same as they are used while making passive voice. For example:

Who does not like this book? (Active)
By whom is this book not liked? (Passive)

Which book do you want? (Active)
Which book is wanted by you? (Passive)

When are you buying a new car? (Active)
When is a new car being bought by you? (Passive)

(9) Present Perfect Continuous, Past Perfect Continuous, Future Continuous and Future Perfect Continuous have no passive voice.

Observe the following passive structures:

No. Active Voice Passive Voice
1. They do not grow rice. Rice is not grown by them.
2. They kept us waiting. We were kept waiting by them.
3. I shall not speak a word to you. Not a word will be spoken to you by me.
4. He is running a race. A race is being run by you.
5. Reena was ironing her clothes. Her clothes were being ironed by Reena.
6. You have won a prize. A prize has been won by you.
7. I have never seen this book before. This book had never been seen by me before.
8. We shall have saved enough by that time. Enough money will have been saved by us by that time.
9. Do they speak French? Is French spoken by them?
10. Did they win the match? Was the match won by them?
11. Will you help me? Shall I be helped by you?
12. Are you writing a letter? Is a letter being written by you?
13. Was he reading a book? Was a book being read by him?
14. Has he invited you? Have you been invited by him?
15. Had they seen us before? Had we been seen by them before?
16. May I take this book? May this book be taken by me?
17. Who wrote this novel? By whom was this novel written?
18. Why did you call him? Why was he called by you?
19. Whom do you want? Who is wanted by you?
20. What did you buy? What was bought by you?
21. How could you help me? How could I be helped by you?
22. Who teaches you Chemistry? By whom are you taught Chemistry?
23. Do it. Let it be done.
24. Do not inform the teacher. Let the teacher not be informed.
25. Let him run a race. Let a race be run by him.
26. Please help me. You are requested to help me.
27. Work hard. You are advised to work hard.
28. Keep to the left. You are directed to keep to the left.
29. Stand up on the table. You are ordered to stand up on the table.
30. I can lift this box. This box can be lifted by me.
31. One ought to do one’s duty. Duty ought to be done.
32. We ought to respect our elders. Our elders ought to be respected by us.
33. He might suffer a great loss. A great loss might be suffered by him.
34. You will have to do it. It will have to be done by you.
35. Women like to talk. It is liked by women to talk.
36. It is time to call the roll. It is time for the roll to be called.
37. They spoke to him. He was spoken to by them.
38. He agreed to my proposal. My proposal was agreed to by him.
39. She acted upon my advice. My advice was acted upon by her.
40. Why are you laughing at me? Why am I being laughed at by you?
41. She knows me. I am known to her.
42. This jar contains water. Water is contained in this jar.
43. His behaviour surprised me. I was surprised at his behaviour.
44. His remarks offended me. I was offended with his remarks.
45. No one has ever beaten me at tennis. I have never been beaten at tennis.
46. Sit down. Be seated.
47. One cannot help it. It cannot be helped.
48. They say that you are a liar. You are said to be a liar.
49. May I go out? Am I allowed to go out?
50. Thank God. God be thanked.
51. May you live long! It is prayed that you may live long.
52. Seven days make a week. A week is made with seven days.
53. I did not praise anybody. Nobody was praised by me.
54. Fire burnt the shed to ashes. The shed was burnt to ashes.
55. He made his servant do all the work. His servant was made to do all the work.
56. My hair needs cutting. My hair need to be cut.
57. Quinine tastes bitter. Quinine is bitter when (it is) tasted.
58. One should keep one’s promise. Promises should be kept.
59. The people lined the road. The road was lined with people.
60. No one can wonder at it. It cannot be wondered at by anyone.


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