The passive voice is not a verb tense, but rather a “voice” used in place of active voice verb tenses when what happened is more important than who did it, or when we don’t know who did the action. It is also commonly used for academic and business purposes.
The counterpoint to the passive voice is the active voice, the default voice used for most communication.
- the basic form of the passive voice pairs the verb ‘be’ with a past participle. A ‘by’ statement may also be used to emphasize who did the action, but its use is optional.
e.g. be + past participle ( + by )
- The active subject becomes the agent in the passive, designated using a ‘by’ statement, which is optional.
- The active object becomes the subject in the passive.
- The active verb is converted to its passive form by conjugating the verb ‘be’ to the corresponding verb tense and pairing it with the active verb’s past participle form.
- Prepositional phrases remain unchanged in the passive, but their position may change based on the context.
- Present Simple: is/am/are + past participle
- Active: Most people believe that global warming is humanity’s most pressing issue.
- Passive: It is believed that global warming is humanity’s most pressing issue.
- Past Simple: was/were + past participle
- Active: The crew filmed the movie in Spain.
- Passive: The movie was filmed in Spain.
- Future (will): will + verb + past participle
- Active: The janitorial service will clean the house next week.
- Passive: The house will be cleaned next week.