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Passive voice

Passive voice definition and examples

Want to make sure your writing always looks great? In that case, you need to learn all about the passive voice and its uses. Today we will help you understand what the passive voice is and how to use it creatively in your writing. Youll also learn about its uses, types and functions along with examples and how you can revise your writing to achieve greater clarity.

What Is The Passive Voice?

In order to use it creatively, its a good idea to learn the definition of passive voice in the first place. As you may already know, in traditional grammar, the term passive voice refers to a style of writing in which the subject of a sentence becomes the object of the sentence. In other words, the passive writing voice takes place when something is done by the object of a sentence instead of being done by the subject of a sentence. It is important to note that, in the passive voice, whatever performs the action of the sentence is actually not the grammatical subject of the sentence. Pretty easy, right?

Types of Voice

Active Voice

In cases when the subject of a sentence performs the verbs action, the sentence is in the active voice. The general rule is that sentences in the active voice have a direct and clear tone and make your writing stronger. These short and straightforward examples of active voice describe it the best.

E.g. Babies adore milk.
E.g. John counted the money.
E.g. Mike hit the ball.

Passive Voice Types

Here, you can use either short or long passive. The main characteristic of short passive is that the performer is not known. For example, in the phrase a deal is made, the subject is not known which makes it a short passive. On the other hand, in long passive, the object becomes the subject of the sentence. For instance, in the sentence The wall was painted by dad, you can easily see that the object the house has now become the subject of the sentence.

Passive Voice Examples

E.g. The homework was completed by Mark.
Although Mark actually did the homework, Mark is not the grammatical subject of the sentence. Instead, the subject of the sentence is work.

E.g. Basketball was hit by Thomas.
In this sentence, basketball becomes the subject of the sentence and not Thomas who actually performed the action.

E.g. The shoes were bought by Mary.
The object, the shoes becomes the subject of the sentence.

E.g. The play was written by Shakespeare.
E.g. Sarah was invited by her neighbors to attend the party.
E.g. Tasks will be given to everyone by the manager.
E.g. The French Riviera is known for excellent sunsets.
E.g. A cake is being baked by Maria.

Passive voice definition and examples

Active vs Passive Voice Examples

  • Present Simple

Active: I read an amazing book.
Passive: An amazing book is read.

  • Present Continuous

Active: Julia is cooking lunch in the kitchen.
Passive: Lunch is being cooked in the kitchen.

  • Past Simple

Active: Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.
Passive: The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.

  • Past Continuous

Active: The salesman was helping the customer when the thief came into the store.
Passive: The customer was being helped by the salesman when the thief came into the store.

  • Present Perfect

Active: Sarah has tricked me.
Passive: I have been tricked by Sarah.

  • Past Perfect

Active: John had done the drawing of his father.
Passive: The drawing of his father had been done by him.

  • Future Simple

Active: The manager will give him instructions.
Passive: Instructions will be given to him by the manager.

  • Future Be Going to

Active: The kids are going to learn French.
Passive: French is going to be learned by the kids.

  • Modals

Active: Jamie must deliver the homework.
Passive: The homework must be delivered by Jamie.

Forming the Passive Voice

The passive voice in English is composed of two elements:
The appropriate form of the verb 'to be' + past participle.

Affirmative - The museum was built in 1890.
Negative - The museum wasnt built in 1890.
Interrogative - Was the museum built in 1890?
Negative interrogative - Wasnt the museum built in 1890?

Passive voice definition and examples

The Function of Passive Voice

As you may know, the use of passive voice in technical writings is not really popular. It is mainly because it can make your text lengthy, slow to read, and often unclear. That is the reason why many people avoid using passive voice. It is also true that passive voice is very common in literature and scientific pieces. In these types of papers, a passive voice can help you avoid taking responsibility for the actions. It is also very useful whenever you want to shift focus from the subject to action.

Should You Avoid Passive Voice in Writing?

It is safe to say that the majority of people prefer active voice in writing because the sentences are more clear and concise. Although it is true that the passive voice is used less frequently, you should not avoid it in your writing. Quality writers know exactly how to blend passive voice with active in writing and you can be one of them! Naturally, you should always pay attention to using passive voice with purpose and intention. It is very helpful in cases where the subject is unimportant or unknown or when you want to hide the performers identity.

Creative Ways to Use Passive in Practice

Believe it or not, passive voice can be fun and can actually help you express yourself just the way you wanted. It can be on your side only if you know how to use it. And, thats why we are here to show you how you can use it creatively in practice.

In case you did something and dont want to admit it, passive comes to rescue. You can simply shift the blame like this Damage was done. So, even if you were the one to do the damage, you can slightly change the emphasis and cover it up by using passive. Others can only keep on guessing who did the damage.

There are also times when you want to simply emphasize the action and not the doer. So, in writing, that would look something like The water was polluted. At this point, you make it all about the water being polluted and the action itself. In this case, the performer of the action is not important. So, whenever you need to emphasize the action, you can simply do it this way!

Writing a paper puts you in a situation where you are the only authority. And, that is something passive can do for you. So, when using passive in your sentences, your paper will definitely look more professional and formal. If that is what you want to achieve, passive is your answer.

Most Common Passive Voice Myths

There are many common myths about passive voice. Theres a high chance that you still believe in some of them. Well, if that is the case, weve gathered some of the most interesting ones. Check them out and youll definitely learn a thing or two.

Myth #1 - You should never use the passive voice

As we already explained, passive voice should not be intentionally avoided. As long as you use it with intention, it can add a special value to your text.

Myth #2 - The use of the passive voice contains a grammatical error

Simply said, the use of the passive voice is not a grammatical error. Its a stylistic issue that pertains to clarity.

Myth #3 - I can rely on my grammar checker to catch the passive voice

The passive voice isnt a grammatical error so it is natural that its not always caught. Usually, grammar checkers can only catch a fraction of passive voice usage.

Passive voice definition and examples


In the English language, you can use either active or passive voice to determine the focus of a sentence. Naturally, these form the voices of your sentences. Most commonly, we write and speak in the active voice because it is the easiest and most concise way to share information.

In general, teachers encourage students to avoid the passive voice in their writing you must have encountered this phenomenon a couple of times before. However, with proper use, passive voice can definitely add a special value to your writing. So, dont be afraid to use it - passive can be fun!


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