Passive Voice

Passive Voice

What is Passive Voice?

Passive voice indicates that the subject receives the action of the verb. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence does nothing. Passive voice does not refer to past tense, but to voice.

How Passive Voice is Created:

Passive voice is created by using the helping verb be followed by the main verb's past participle.

                   s     v-passive
Ex: The paper was written by Ricky.

Note: Be, being, and been require additional helping verbs to form passive voice:

         have}                                                      am)
         has}         been completed                are}
         had}                                                        is}               being completed

Passive Voice vs. Active Voice:

Passive voice is wordier and more indirect than active voice. In active voice, the subject does something.

           s     v-active
Ex: Mary dropped the camera.

                     s       v-passive
Ex: The camera was dropped by Mary.

Passive Voice is Useful When:
  • you do not know who performs the actions, and
  • if the object of the action is more important than the actor

Passive Voice is Acceptable:

  • when a "true" subject is unknown
    Ex: Mysterious tombs were erected in Egypt.
  • when a "true" subject is insignificant or secondary
    Ex: My brother was captured while fighting in Nairobi.
  • in technical and scientific writing
    Ex: The diagnostic manual was written to provide instructions.

Remember: In passive voice, the subject is acted upon; it receives the action.

Page last updated June 26, 2023.