The Passive Voice
Do you remember the story about time I destroyed my dad’s car? When it happened my father was at work so I did not tell him until he arrived home. And while he was working I was trying to think of a million excuses I could tell him to avoid getting into trouble! In the end I told him the truth, that I had destroyed the car. BUT, I could have changed the sentence to avoid punishment. In English we call this a HALF TRUTH. Imagine my situation for example, I could have said, “Dad, the car has been destroyed.” In this sentence I am only telling my dad HALF of the story. I DID NOT tell my father I WAS RESPONSIBLE. I only told him WHAT happened.
In part 1 we talked about how to use the passive voice, where we see the passive voice and how to make the passive voice in the simple and continuous tenses.Some things to remember are:
- In the passive voice WHAT HAPPENS is more important than WHO DID IT
- We see it mostly in writing BUT when speaking we use it to not get in trouble!
- We might not know WHO is responsible (by person or thing IS NOT necessary)
- The form doesn’t change;
- Subject + TO BE verb [conjugated] + past participle + [the rest of the sentence]
- For the negative, just add ‘NOT’ with the TO BE verb:
- The car was NOT destroyed.
- The car is NOT destroyed.
- The car will NOT be destroyed.
- The examples above were NOT created with too much difficulty.
From ACTIVE to PASSIVE
By now you should be confident using the passive voice in the simple and continuous tenses but, let’s quickly look at how you can change a sentence from the active voice to the passive voice. Look at these sentences:
DAAAAADDD! The car was destroyed!
In the active sentence the car is the object but in the passive sentence the car is the subject. So to change the sentence from active to passive, follow the steps below:
|Take the object from the active sentence||I will write a book!|
|Put the object at the beginning of your new sentence||A book…|
|Add the conjugated TO BE verb||A book WILL BE…|
|And then the past participle of the verb in the active sentence||A book WILL BE written.|
|The cow jumped over the moon.||The moon WAS jumped over by the cow|
|James IS making many mistakes.||Many mistakes ARE BEING made.|
|J.K Rowling WILL write another book.||Another book WILL BE written by J.K. Rowling.|
THE PERFECT TENSES
Firstly, let’s recap the perfect tense. We use it when we are talking about something in the past BUT, we don’t know exactly when it was. In the present perfect, there is a relationship between the past and now. For example: I have destroyed the car already. In this sentence an action happened in the past but there is still an effect now. In the past perfect there is a relationship between two times, normally in the same sentence: When my dad got home from work, I had destroyed the car already. The perfect tense is the thing that happened before the other thing, in my example, the car was destroyed and then my dad arrived home from work. These same rules apply in the passive voice as well.
|past perfect||The car||had not been||destroyed!||yet*!|
|The people||had [not] been||eaten||by zombies!|
|present perfect||The car||has been||destroyed!||already*!|
|The people||have [not] been||eaten||by zombies!|
*YET or ALEADY? - In negative sentences you use YET and in positive sentences you use ALREADY.
Some tips to remember!
- Use the perfect tense when there is a relationship between two different times
- YET is for negative sentences and ALREADY is for positive sentences
In English there are always special cases, the first one we will look at is verbs that have more than one object. For example: He teaches physics to high school kids. In this example the objects are both physics and high school kids and it is possible to make two sentences in the passive voice:
- High school kids are taught physics.
- Physics is taught to high school kids.
|[to give] The Zookeeper gives a banana to the monkey.||The monkey IS given a banana.
A banana IS given to the monkey.
|[to offer] The university offered classes to everyone.||Classes WERE offered to everyone.
Everyone WAS offered classes
|[to show] They WERE showing the animals to people.||The animals WERE BEING shown to people.
People WERE BEING shown the animals.
|[to pay] The boss WILL pay $2000 to the team.||$2000 WILL BE paid to the team.
The team WILL BE paid $2000.
|[to ask] She HAD asked the manager for some help.||Some help HAD BEEN asked for from the manager.
The manager HAD BEEN asked for some help.
|[to tell] He tells his problems to all the people.||All the people ARE told his problems.
His problems ARE told to all the people.
And finally ‘GET’… this verb is possibly the most confusing one of all because it has many meanings. ‘GET’ is used mostly in informal speech and in the passive voice you can use ‘GET’ instead of ‘BE’. However, we can only use ‘GET’ when something happens for example:
- The car GOT destroyed! = the car WAS destroyed!
- I didn’t GET yelled at when I destroyed dad’s car. = I WASN’T yelled at…
- I don’t GET invited to many parties = I’M NOT invited to many parties.
- There was a fight at the party, but nobody GOT hurt. = … nobody WAS hurt [by the fight]
THE PASSIVE VOICE IS UNDERSTOOD BY ALL!
And that my friends is EVERYTHING you need to know about the passive voice, where it’s used, what it’s used for and how it’s made. Just remember, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT so if you have any questions you can leave a comment below or book a class with me and I can help you.