ENGLISH GRAMMAR The Passive Voice
THE PASSIVE VOICE
The passive of an active tense is formed by putting the verb to be into the same tense as the active verb
and adding the past participle of the active verb. The subject of the active verb becomes the ‘agent’ of the
passive verb. The agent is very often not mentioned. When it is mentioned it is preceded by by and placed
at the end of the clause.
Active: My grandfather planted this tree.
Passive: This tree was planted by my grandfather.
PASSIVE VERB TENSES
ACTIVE VOICE PASSIVE VOICE
Present Simple He delivers the letters. The letters are delivered.
Past Simple He delivered the letters. The letters were delivered.
Future Simple He will deliver the letters. The letters will be delivered.
Present Continuous He is delivering the letters. The letters are being delivered.
Past Continuous He was delivering the letters. The letters were being delivered.
Going to He is going to deliver the letters. The letters are going to be delivered.
Present Perfect He has delivered the letters. The letters have been delivered.
Past Perfect He had delivered the letters. The letters had been delivered.
Infinitive He has to deliver the letters. The letters have to be delivered.
Modals He must deliver the letters. The letters must be delivered.
SIMPLE CONTINUOUS PERFECT
+ S + am/is/are + Ptp S + am/is/are + being + Ptp S + have/has + been + Ptp
PRESENT - S + am/is/are + not + Ptp S + am/is/are + not +being + Ptp S + have/has + not + been + Ptp
? Am/Is/Are + S + Ptp ? Am/Is/Are) + S + being + Ptp ? Have/Has) + S + been + Ptp ?
+ S + was/were + Ptp S + was/were + being + Ptp S + had + been + Ptp
PAST - S + was/were + not + Ptp S + was/were + not + being + Ptp S + had + not + been + Ptp
? Was/Were + S +PtpV ? Was/Were + S + being + Ptp? Had + S + been + Ptp
+ S + will + be + Ptp
FUTURE - S + will + not + be + Ptp
? Will + S + be + Ptp ?
+ S + V to be (am/is/are) + going to +
be + Ptp
GOING TO - S + V to be (am/is/are) + not + going
to + be + Ptp
? V to be (am/is/are) + S + going to +
be + Ptp ?
To make short answers:
we use the verb to be (am/is/are/was/were) for Present Simple, Past Simple, Present
Continuous, Past Continuous and Going To questions.
we use the verb have (have/has/had) for Present Perfect and Past Perfect questions.
we use will for Future Simple questions.
The Passive is used:
1. when the agent (=the person who does the action) is unknown, unimportant or obvious from the
Jane was shot. (We don’t know who shot her.)
This church was built in 1815. (Unimportant agent)
He has been arrested. (Obviously by the police)
2. to make more polite or formal statements.
The car hasn’t been cleaned. (more polite)
(You haven’t cleaned the car. – less polite)
3. when the action is more important than the agent, as in processes, instructions, events, reports,
headlines, new items, and advertisements.
30 people were killed in the earthquake.
4. to put emphasis on the agent....