Passive voice

Passive voice is commonly used in both spoken and written English. Its use really depends upon the kind of speaking and what the speaker wishes to express. If we do not know who did something then the passive may well be the most natural way to express it, whether in spoken or written form. For example, ‘My car was stolen’ is more common than ‘Someone stole my car’. Passive forms are also stylistic and rhetorical. They enable us to focus attention on certain parts of the sentence and to omit other parts. Below you will find some ways to use passive voice and examples showing how you can make your own sentences.

Why use passive voice?

1) Sometimes we use the passive voice because we don’t know or do not want to express who performed the action. You might do this to avoid blaming someone if you do not know who is to blame. 


I noticed that my lunch had been eaten.
Every year thousands of people are killed on our roads.
All the beer has been drunk.
My car has been stolen!

2) When we want to change the focus of the sentence. If we were talking about Leonardo Da Vinci and he was the subject, we might say “Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa”. However, if we wanted to change the focus of the sentence on to the painting we might instead say “The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.”

3) When the subject is very long and you want to shorten it or make it less complicated. For example, “how many tickets we sold for the concert really surprised me” is a complex and therefore unnatural sentence structure. Instead you might wish to say, “I was really surprised by how many tickets we sold for the concert.”

How do we a sentence passive voice? 


The basic structure of a passive clause is very simple:

subject + auxiliary verb
+ main verb
past participle

The auxiliary ‘be’ is conjugated in all tenses. The main verb is always the past participle. The agent is the original i.e. the person or people doing the action.

Look at some examples:


subject auxiliary verb be main verb
past participle
I am employed by Microsoft.
You will be awoken   at 7am.
It will have been 6 months   by then.
We have been certified by the government.
You are being transferred   next week.
They will be paid.    

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