Change of Voice

Definition of Voice –

A form of verb that tells us whether the Action is done by subject itself or it faces the result of action done by others. Sometime Action is done by the Subject directly and other times indirectly.


He takes tea. ( The action of taking tea is being done by the subject” He” directly).

Tea is taken by him. ( The action of taking tea is being done by the same subject indirectly ).

There two type of voice – Active and Passive.

Active Voice

When using the active voice, the subjects are the ones performing the action.

God loves all men. 
Birds build nests.
Dog eats bones. 
In these three sentences the subject does the action. Hence they are in the active avoice.

Passive Voice

In the passive voice, the verb takes an object.

All men are loved by God.
Nests are built by birds.
Bones are eaten by dog.

These sentences are in passive voice. The Passive voice is used in English 
(a) To stress the action done rather than the doer of the action
(b) If the doer is unknown
(c) When it is more convenient.


How to convert active voice into passive voice:

First move the object in the active voice to the subject position. Use the appropriate ‘be’ verb 
(is/am/are/was/were/has been/have been/shall be/will be)

Active Voice Passive Voice
He teaches English. English is taught by him.
The child is eating bananas. Bananas are being eaten by the child.
She is writing a letter. A letter is being written by her.
He was writing a book. A book was being written by him.
I have finished the job. The job has been finished by me.
I sent the report yesterday. The report was sent yesterday.
Somebody had stolen my purse. My purse had been stolen by somebody.

How to form passive forms of verbs?

Tense Active Passive
Present Tense go, goes is gone (Singular)
are gone (Plural)
Past Tense went was went (Singular)
were went (Plural)
Future Tense will / can / may / must => go will / can etc. => be gone
Present Continuous am going
is going
is being going (Singular)
are being going (Plural)
Past Continuous are going
was going
were going
was being gone (Singular)
were being gone (Plural)
Future Continuous will be going
shall be going
No Passive Voice
Present Perfect have gone
has gone
have been gone (Plural)
has been gone (Sinular)
Past Perfect had gone had been gone
Future Perfect shall have gone
will have gone
will have been gone
Present Perfect Continuous has been going
have been going
No Passive Voice
Past Perfect Continuous had been going No Passive Voice
Future Perfect Continuous shall have been going
will have been going
No Passive Voice

Changes of Pronouns :

Active Voice Passive Voice
I me
we us
you you
he him
she her
it it
they them

Rules for changing Active Voice into Passive Voice:

Rule No. #1:  As mentioned earlier, the structure of sentence will be reversed in Passive Voice. The places of the Subject and the object will interchange. The subject will shift to the place of Object and the object will take the place of Subject in Passive Voice.

Example :
Active Voice :  He buys a camera.
Passive Voice :  A camera is bought by him.

Rule No. #2: Only Past Participle Form or 3rd form of verb (e.g. eaten etc) will always be used as main verb in Passive voices for all tenses. No other form of verb will be used as main verb. It can be seen in all the examples given on this page.

Rule No.  #3:  The word “by” will be used before subject in the Passive voice.

Example :
Active Voice :  She drinks water.
Passive Voice :  Water is drunk byher.

Rule No. # 4:  Other words such as ‘with’ or ‘to’ may also be used instead of word ‘by’ depending upon the subject of the sentence. These words are used in a very few cases. The word ‘by’ is used in the most cases.

Active Voice : I know him.
Passive Voice : He is known to me.
Active Voice : Water fills a tub.
Passive Voice : A tub is filled with water.

Rule No. #5:  The auxiliary verb will be changed in Passive Voice depending upon the tense of sentence in its Active Voice. There are rules for changing the auxiliary for each tense which can also be studied on this website.

Rule No. #6:  Subject may not be always mentioned in Passive Voice. A passive voice sentence can be written without having subject, if it gives clear idea about the subject. Read the following examples.

Examples :
Active Voice : Women are not treated as equals.
Passive Voice : Sugar is sold in kilograms.

Note : The above rules, except rule No. #5, are the basic rules for changing Active Voices into Passive Voice and apply to all type of sentences. The rule No. 5 is about the usage of auxiliary verbs in Passive Voices which differs for each tense of the sentence.

Passive Voice for Imperative Sentences - Rules

A sentence that expresses a command or an advice or a request is called an imperative sentence. Here are some examples:

  1. Learn your lessons. (An advice)
  2. Open the door. (A command)
  3. Help the poor. (An Advice)
  4. Please, make a cup of tea. (A request)

Changing imperative sentences into Passive voice:

An imperative sentence does not have a known-subject. It reflects a message conveyed to the listener in the form of an advice, a request or a command. The listener of the sentence is assumed to the subject, who is not directly mentioned in the sentence. Hence, imperative sentences in Passive Voices also do not have a mentioned-subject in the sentence.

There are three rules for converting an imperative sentence from Active Voice into Passive Voice.

1. The imperative sentence in Passive Voice begins with word “Let”.

2. The word ‘Be’ is used is used as an auxiliary verb in Passive Voice of imperative sentences.

3. Base form (or 1st form of verb, e.g. write etc) is converted into Past Participle (or 3rd form of verb e.g. written etc) for making passive voice of imperative sentence.

Read the following examples for better understanding:

Passive Voice for Imperative Sentences

Active Voice Passive Voice
Respect the elders. Let the elders be respected.
Finish the task. Let the task be finished.
Do not waste the time. Let the time not be wasted.
Close the door. Let the door be closed.
Wash the shirts. Let the shirts be washed.
Repair your camera. Let your camera be repaired.
Open the window. Let the window be opened.
Help the children. Let the children be helped.
Throw the ball. Let the ball be thrown.
Collect nice books. Let nice books be collected.

Questions in the Passive :

If the question in the Active Voice begins with a Helping verb the Passive voice must also begin with a suitable helping verb. Supposing the question begins with ‘Wh or How’ form (what, when, how ...) the Passive Voice must begin with the same.

Active Voice Passive Voice
Are you writing a letter? Is a letter being written by you?
Is she beating the child? Is the child beaten by her?
Will you accept the position? Will the position be accepted by you?
Who broke the window? By whom was the window broken?
Why did you write such a letter? Why was such a letter written by you?
Why was such a letter written by you? Where can this box be hidden by you?

Sentences with two objects:

If a sentence contains two objects namely Indirect Object and Direct Object in the Active Voice, two forms of Passive Voice can be formed.

1. She brought me a cup of coffee. (AV)
    I was brought a cup of coffee by her. (PV) (or)
    A cup of coffee was brought [to] me by her. (PV)

2. The teacher teaches us grammar. (AV)
    We are taught grammar by the teacher. (PV) (or)
    Grammar is taught [to] us by the teacher. (PV)

Beware of Complement

1. They made him king. (AV)
    He was made king by them. (PV)

Infinitive and Gerund :

1. I want to shoot the tiger. (AV)
    I want the tiger to be shoot. (PV)

2. I remember my father taking me to the theatre. (AV)
    I remember being taken to the theatre by my father. (PV)

Passive voice into Active Voice

While changing Passive Voice into Active Voice, we must keep in mind all the rules of the Active Voice in the reverse order. We come across sentences in the Passive Voice without subject or agent. In this case, supply the appropriate subject.
To decide whether the given passive voice sentence is in passive voice, any one of the following constructions should be present.

1. is, was ,are, were, am + past participle

2. be + past participle

3. being + past participle

4. been + past participle

5. Let + past participle

Changing Passive Voice to Active Voice.

Active Voice Passive Voice
The thief was finally arrested. The police finally arrested the theif.
We were taught grammer. The teacher taught us grammer.
My purse has been stolen.. somebody has stolen my purse.
The patients were looked after . The doctor looked after the patients.

Passive Voice / Impersonal Passive

Difference between passive voice with 'by' - phrase and impersonal voice:

Compare these two sentences:

1. Last year, the Green-India scheme was announced by the Government.

2. Rare plants are found in Silent Valley.

In the first sentence, the doer/agent is explicitly mentioned because the doer is important in that sentence. But in the second sentence it is not so, because either the agent or doer of the action is too obvious or unknown. 

The passive construction is quite common in scientific / technical / business writing. In these types of objective writing the emphasis is usually on the action or process or thing that is described. So the ‘by’ phrase is generally omitted in these writings. It is called Impersonal Passive.

Converting the following sentence into imperative passive:

1. They say that might is right.
     It is said that might is right.

2. One finds mosquitoes everywhere.
    Mosquitoes are found everywhere.

3. He gave us a cheque.
    A cheque was given to us.

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