Tips & Techniques in English For competitive Exams – Active & Passive Voice
Passive voice is used when the focus is on the action; not on who or what is performing the action. In passive voice, the object of a verb appears to perform an action so that the effect of that action appears to fall on the subject. In active voice, the subject of a verb performs an action. The effect of the action may or may not fall on an object, that is, the verb may or may not have an object.
The maid opened the door. The girl laughs, in the first sentence, ‘opened’ is the verb or the action; the ‘maid’ is the subject or the ‘doer’ who performs that action; and the ‘door’ is the object on whom the effect of that action is directed. In the second sentence, ‘laughs’ is the verb or the action; and the ‘girl’ is the subject or the doer of that action. There is no object because the effect of the girl’s laughing cannot be directed at another object.
His car was stolen. Here, the focus is on the fact that his car was stolen. It is not known, however, who did it.
A mistake has been made. In this case, the focus is on the fact that a mistake has been made, but nobody is blamed.When interchanging active sentences in passive voice, note the following:
- The object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence
- The finite form of the verb is changed (to be + past participle)
- The subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is dropped)
RULES OF CHANGING ACTIVE VOICE
|ACTIVE VOICE||PASSIVE VOICE|
|Present Simple||He delivers the letters.||The letters are delivered by him.|
|Past Simple||He delivered the letters.||The letters were delivered by him.|
|Future Simple||He will deliver the letters.||The letters will be delivered by him.|
|Present Continuous||He is delivering the letters.||The letters are being delivered by him.|
|Past Continuous||He was delivering the letters.||The letters were being delivered by him.|
|Going to||He is going to deliver the letters.||The letters are going to be delivered by him.|
|Present Perfect||He has delivered the letters.||The letters have been delivered by him.|
|Past Perfect||He had delivered the letters.||The letters had been delivered by him.|
|Infinitive||He has to deliver the letters.||The letters have to be delivered by him.|
|Modals||He must deliver the letters.||The letters must be delivered by him.|
USES OF PASSIVE
- When the agent (=the person who does the action) is unknown,
unimportant or obvious from the context.
Tom was shot. (Who shot Tom is not known)
This museum was built in 1774. (Unimportant agent)
She was arrested. (Obviously by the police)
- To make more polite or formal statements
The room hasn’t been cleaned, (more polite)
You haven’t cleaned the room, (less polite)
- When the action is more important than the agent
Around 12 people have been killed in the flood.
- To put emphasis on the agent.
The new mall will be inaugurated by the mayor.
Agent is the doer of the action that we are talking about, i.e. to refer to the agent, we use the preposition by and the name (by Sam), noun (by the gardener) or pronoun (by her) at the end of the sentence. The agent is referred to when there is some important information about it which otherwise would be missing from the sentence.
Sam’s car has been repaired by a famous mechanic. However, the agent is not mentioned:
- if we don’t know who has done what we are talking about.
Shiela’s locket was stolen yesterday. (We don’t know who stole it)
- If we are not interested in who has done what we are talking about or it is not important to mention it.
He has been operated upon. (What we are interested in is the fact that he has been operated upon and not who has operated upon him.)
- If it is easy to understand who did something without it being mentioned.
The dacoit has been arrested last week. (It is not necessary to mention that he has been arrested by the police because it is self-evident.)
- If the subject of the active voice sentence is something like somebody, people, they, you, etc. Someone stole my purse.? My purse was stolen.
‘By’ and ‘With’
In the passive voice, ‘by is used with the agent to refer to by whom the action is being done. Example: The house has been cleaned by Maria. (Maria = agent) with refers to the instrument, object or material that was used for something to be done. Example: The almirah has been locked with a key. (a key = the object that was used) The soup was made with cheese and peppers, (cheese and peppers = the material that was used)
DOUBLE OBJECT VERBS
When there are verbs that take two objects like, for example, give somebody something, we can convert the active sentence into a passive one in two ways:
- by making the indirect (animate) object the subject of the passive voice sentence,
which is also the way that we usually prefer.
- By making the direct (inanimate) object the subject of the passive voice.
Susan gave me (indirect object) this novel (direct object).
I was given this novel by Susan. This novel was given to me by Susan.
Some of the verbs that take two objects are: give, write, offer, pay, tell, send, show, bring, etc.
When the indirect object is alone after the verb in the passive voice sentence, it needs the preposition ‘to.’ If the indirect object of the active voice sentence is a personal pronoun it has to be changed into a subject pronoun to be the subject of the passive voice sentence.
Active : The bill includes tip.
Passive : Tip is included in the bill.
Active : Someone stole his car in the parking.
Passive : His car was stolen in the parking.
Active : The police have arrested all the culprits.
Passive : All the culprits have been arrested by the police.
Active : People don’t use this route very often.
Passive : This route isn’t used very often
Active : Somebody accused him of stealing the bicycle.
Passive : He was accused of stealing the bicycle.
Active : They are building a new mall in the city.
Passive : A new mall is being built in the city.
Active : She didn’t realise that someone was videographing her.
Passive : She didn’t realise that she was being videographed.
Active : They have changed the dates of the examinations.
Passive : The dates of the examinations have been changed.
Active : Sam told me that somebody had stopped and robbed him in the street.
Passive : Sam told me that he had been stopped and robbed him in the street.
Active : They cancelled all trains because of farmers’ agitation.
Passive : All flights were cancelled because of farmers’ agitation.
Active : They didn’t offer Tom the job.
Passive : Tom wasn’t offered the job.
Active : They don’t pay Jim very much.
Passive : Jim isn’t paid very much.
Active : They will ask you a lot of question at the police station.
Passive : You will be asked a lot of questions at the police station.
Active : Nobody told me that you were not coming.
Passive : I wasn’t told that you were not coming.
Active : His colleagues gave him a gift when he retired.
Passive : He was given a present by his colleagues when he retired.
Active : They will send you your mark sheet as soon as it is ready.
Passive : You will be sent your mark sheet as soon as it is ready.
Active : They didn’t ask her her name.
Passive : She wasn’t asked her name.
Active : Did the police catch the dacoit?
Passive : Was the dacoit caught by the police?
Active : Will the mayor inaugurate the new mall?
Passive : Will the new mall be inaugurated by the mayor?
Active : Do they make cars in Italy?
Passive : Are cars made in Italy?
Active : Do the tigers kill the buffaloes?
Passive : Are the buffaloes killed by the tigers?
Active : Have the police found the necklace?
Passive : Has the necklace been found by the police?
Active : Why has the censor board banned the movie?
Passive : Why has the movie been banned by the censor board?
Active : When did they hijack the car?
Passive : When was the car hijacked?
Active : How did your principal treat you?
Passive : How were you treated by the principal?
Active : What caused the accident?
Passive : What caused the accident? / What was the accident caused by?
Active : Has anyone cleaned the floor yet?
Passive : Has the floor been cleaned yet?
Active : Is a doctor going to conduct tests on you?
Passive : Are the tests going to be conducted on you by a doctor?