First of all, in order to fully understand the Passive Voice you need to know the English tenses very well. If you don’t know the English tenses well, it will be very difficult for you to follow and use it correctly; you’ll get confused. So, assuming that you already know the English tenses, let’s get started!
Let’s take a simple active sentence first:
Tigers eat zebras
Ok, here the subject, the one who performs the action (the one who does something) is the word “Tigers“. Tigers do something; they perform an action. So, what do tigers do? They eat. Here is our verb. What do they eat? They eat zebras. That’s our object. Now, this is an active sentence. In order to make this a passive sentence we focus our attention on the object (in this case zebras) and we make it a subject. So, we have our new subject:
Now, keep in mind that both sentences must have the same meaning in the end (so we cannot say, for example, “Zebras eat grass”). What do we do, then? We take the verb and we transform it into passive voice: The form of passive voice is quite simple. You use the verb “to be” depending on the tense that you need and the past participle of the main verb you want to use.
So, in this case, the main verb in the active sentence is “eat”. The verb “eat” is in Simple Present, ok? Therefore, according to the formation we just explained, we have:
Zebras are eaten
Why “are eaten” and not “is eaten”? Because “Zebras” are in the plural: we have to be careful to use the same tense and type (singular or plural). We use “by tigers” to state who performs the action to the zebras:
Zebras are eaten by tigers.
[Note that only the verbs that take an object can form passive voice! Verbs that don’t take an object such as “arrive”; “return”; “die” and the like cannot form passive voice.]
Now, let’s go and see examples of every tense and case. The verb “to be“ in each tense will be underlined. We already used Simple Present, so let’s go and see the rest.
Someone stole my car –> My car was stolen (by someone)
The doctors will cure Mary’s dad –> Mary’s dad will be cured (by the doctors)
Simple Present Perfect:
George has painted the fence –> The fence has been painted by George
Simple Past Perfect:
The thief had already robbed the house when the police arrived –> The house had already been robbed (by the thief) when the police arrived.
Simple Future Perfect:
Don’t worry! I will have taken the IELTS exam by next month –> Don’t worry! The IELTS will have been taken by next month.
The cat is cleaning herself now –> The cat is being cleaned now
Mum was washing the baby’s hair –> The baby’s hair was being washed by mum
You should wash your clothes –> Your clothes should be washed
You shouldn’t have broken the plate –> The plate shouldn’t have been broken
For formal writings passive voice is usually preferred.
For example, verbs such as believe; know; say; consider; report can form an impersonal construction in passive voice which is great for a formal essay. Let’s see some examples you can use!
–It is believed that financial achievement is a sign of success
–It is widely known that knowledge is power
–It is said that environmental problems have increased
–It is considered a fact that money doesn’t bring happiness
–It is reported that the annual income of major companies has decreased due to financial crisis
Keep in mind that passive voice needs some practice in order to fully master it but I really hope that this lesson helps you to understand it! If you prefer video, here you go: