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Active and Passive Voice: Tense-wise Rules

Simple Present tense

An Active sentence in the simple present tense has the following structure:
Subject + first form of the verb + object

A passive sentence in the simple present tense has the following structure:
Object of the active sentence + is/am/are + past participle form of the verb + by + subject of
the active sentence

Changing an assertive sentence into the passive

Active: I write a letter.

Passive: A letter is written by me.
Active: I help you.
Passive: You are helped by me.
Active: I love my parents.
Passive: My parents are loved by me.
Active: We love our country.
Passive: Our country is loved by us.

Changing a negative sentence into the passive

Active: I do not write a letter.

Passive: A letter is not written by me.
Active: I do not abuse my servants.
Passive: My servants are not abused by me.
Active: I do not write novels.
Passive: Novels are not written by me.
Active: He does not tease her.
Passive: She is not teased by him.

Changing an interrogative sentence into the passive

Structure: Is/are/am + object of the active verb + past participle form of the verb + by + subject
of the passive verb

Active: Do you write a letter?

Passive: Is a letter written by you?
Active: Do you write stories?
Passive: Are stories written by you?
Active: Does she make candles?
Passive: Are candles made by her?
Active: Who does not obey you?
Passive: By whom are you not obeyed?
Active: Which newspaper do you read?
Passive: Which newspaper is read by you?
Active: Does she do her duty?
Passive: Is her duty done by her?


The object of the active verb becomes the subject of the passive verb. Therefore, sentences
which do not have an object cannot be changed into the passive. The following sentences, for
instance, cannot be changed into the passive because they do not have objects.

The old man sat in a corner.

The child sleeps.
The wind blows.
The dog barks.
The fire burns.
He laughed aloud

To change a sentence from active to passive voice, do the following:
1. Move the active sentence's direct object into the sentence's subject slot

2. Place the active sentence's subject into a phrase beginning with the preposition by

3. Add a form of the auxiliary verb be to the main verb and change the main verb's form

Because passive voice sentences necessarily add words and change the normal doer-action-
receiver of action direction, they may make the reader work harder to understand the intended

Read more:

Change Passive Voice to Active Voice

When a sentence is written, it can either be written in active voice or passive voice. In most
cases, writing sentences in passive voice is discouraged because it can obscure the subject of the
sentence, and confuse the reader. It also usually creates a wordy and awkward sentence
Defining Passive Voice

Every sentence contains, at minimum, a subject and an action. The subject is the person or thing
the sentence is about, and the action is what the subject is doing. When a sentence is in active
voice, the subject doing the action comes before the action. For example:

 I swim. I is the subject. Swim is the action. The subject doing the action comes before the action,
so it is immediately clear to the reader who is doing what.

When a sentence is in passive voice, the subject comes after the action. For example:

 Swimming is something I do. Here, the action is swimming. The subject is I. The sentence is in
passive voice, since the person doing the action (I) is not mentioned until after the action

Some sentences also contain objects- the thing being acted upon. This can make it more difficult
to determine whether the sentence is in passive voice. For example, here is a sentence in active

 Anna hits the ball. Anna is the subject. Hits is the action. The ball is the object.

That same sentence in passive voice reads:

 The ball is hit by Anna.

 The ball is the object- not the subject of the sentence. The ball is not doing an action. Therefore,
it should be after the subject (Anna)

Tips to Recognize the Passive Voice

Sometimes a sentence in passive voice does not necessarily sound "wrong" or wordy. However,
it is still best to write in active voice when possible.

In order to recognize that a sentence is in passive voice, watch out for these keywords:

 Be
 Is
 Are
 A
 Was
 Were
 Has been
 Have been
 Will be
 Being
Practice Changing Passive to Active Voice

Correct the following five sentences to practice changing passive to active voice. The answers
are below:

1. Hunger was what Bill felt.

2. Reading is enjoyed by Mary
3. The town was destroyed by fire
4. Funny is what clowns are
5. Cheese was liked by Sara

Answers to Practice Sentences

1. Bill felt hungry (Bill is the subject, felt is the action)

2. Mary enjoys reading (Mary is the subject, enjoys is the action)
3. Fire destroyed the town (Fire is the subject, destroyed is the action)
4. Clowns are funny (Clowns is the subject, funny is the action)
5. Sara likes cheese (Sara is the subject, likes is the action)
6. There will be two Passive Voice sentences for the sentences with two nouns.

There are few verbs which take two objects, a Direct object and an Indirect object.

For such sentences, there will be two forms in Passive Voice sentences.

1. Verbs with two objects:


• I gave him five rupees. (Active voice)

• Five rupees were given to him by me. (Passive Voice)
• He was given five rupees by me. (Passive Voice)

• She has told me the truth. (Active voice)

• I was told the truth by her. (Passive Voice)
• The truth was told to me by her. (Passive Voice)

• They lent me their car. (Active voice)

• I was lent a car by them. (Passive Voice)
• A car was lent to me by them. (Passive Voice)

• The Government has sent him a message. (Active voice)

• He was sent a message by the government. (Passive Voice)
• A message was sent to him by the government. (Passive Voice)
2. Imperative sentences (Commands and requests)

There is special formula for changing the imperative sentence into passive voice.

• Please open the door. (Active voice)

• Let the door be opened by you. (Passive Voice)

Here the sentence in active-voice has been changed into a sentence in passive-voice.

Please understand the formula which has been followed to change the active-voice to

―Let‖ is used to convert the active voice sentence into a passive voice sentence.


• Do not mistake me. (Active voice)

• Let me not be mistaken. (Passive Voice)

• Cut your nails. (Active voice)

• Let your nails be cut. (Passive Voice)

• Do not ignore my suggestions. (Active voice)

• Let not my suggestions be ignored. (Passive Voice).

These sentences have been changed into passive voice sentences by adding "let".

3. With Modal verbs:

The verbs can, could, may, might, and must are known modal verbs. As per the following
methods these sentences with these verbs are changed into passive voice.


• You can take the book. (Active voice)

• The book can be taken by you. (Passive Voice).

• Everybody must obey the rules. (Active voice)

• The rules must be obeyed by everybody. (Passive Voice).
• They might have studied their lessons. (Active voice)
• Their lessons might have been studied by them. (Passive Voice).

• He may not accept this plan. (Active voice)

• This lesson may not be accepted by him. (Passive Voice).

4. Phrasal verbs:

Few verbs, with certain meanings are always used with prepositions.

In such situations the prepositions should not be omitted in the sentences.


• We are looking at the game. (Active voice)

• The game is being looked at by us. (Passive Voice).

• The fire-brigade put out the fire. (Active voice)

• The fire was put out by the fire-brigade. (Passive Voice).

• The Government will set up a factory. (Active voice)

• A factory will be set up by the government. (Passive Voice).

5. With IT:

In few sentences, instead of a word or a phrase, a clause may be the object of a verb.

In such cases there are two ways of changing the sentences into the passive voice.

A. By making the clause itself as the subject in the passive voice.


• I hope that he will realize his mistake. (Active voice)

• That his mistake will be realized is hoped by us. (Passive Voice).

• I expected that they would take up the matter. (Active voice)

• That the matter would be taken up by them was expected by me. (Passive Voice).

B. By substituting the clause with pronoun it.


• The Romans expected that they would conquer Carthage. (Active voice)
• It was expected by the Romans that Carthage would be conquered by them. (Passive

• We have learned that you have secured the first rank. (Active voice)
• It has been learned by us that the first rank has been secured by you. (Passive Voice).


• The grandmother was telling her grandchildren an interesting story. (Active voice)
• An interesting story was being told by the grandmother to her grand children. (Passive
• Her grand children were being told an interesting story by their grandmother. (Passive

• The postman brought you a parcel. (Active voice)

• A parcel was brought to you by a postman. (Passive Voice).
• You were brought a parcel by the postman. (Passive Voice).

• I have taught the class the first lesson. (Active voice)

• The first lesson was taught by me to the class. (Passive Voice).
• The class was taught the first lesson by me. (Passive Voice).

• The office has sent her a message. (Active voice)

• A message has been sent to her by the office. (Passive Voice).
• She has been sent a message by her office. (Passive Voice).

• The waiter brought us the menu card. (Active voice)

• The menu card was brought to us by the waiter. (Passive Voice).
• We were brought the menu card by the waiter. (Passive Voice).

• They are offering you another chance. (Active voice)

• You are being offered another chance by them. (Passive Voice).
• Another chance is being offered to you by them. (Passive Voice).

• He had told me a lie. (Active voice)

• I had been told a lie by him. (Passive Voice).
• A lie had been told to me by him. (Passive Voice).

• I gave her your message. (Active voice)

• She was given your message by me. (Passive Voice).
• Your message was given to her by me. (Passive Voice).

• Who taught you Sanskrit? (Active voice)

• Sanskrit was taught to you by whom? (Passive Voice).
• You were taught Sanskrit by whom? (Passive Voice).

• Sign these documents. (Active voice)

• Let these documents be signed. (Passive Voice).

Active and Passive Voice

March 17, 2005

Manju submitted a request for information on ―how to write passive sentences & cosutive [sic]
sentences.‖ I‘ll focus here on passive (voice) sentences, and how to distinguish them from
sentences using active voice.

Active Voice

A sentence is written in the active voice if the subject—the main person, place, thing, or idea—
performs the action.


1. Jonathan threw the ball across the street. (The subject, “Jonathan,” performed the action,
2. Because it hadn’t been seen for decades, the obelisk surprised the audience when the lecturer
presented it. (The subject, “obelisk,” performed the action, “surprised.” Note that we’re
focusing on the subject of the independent, or main, clause.)

Passive Voice

A sentence is written in the passive voice if the subject—the main person, place, thing, or idea—
receives the action.


1. The orchestra is conducted by Ms. Phelps. (The subject, “orchestra,” is receiving the action here.
“Ms. Phelps” is conducting the orchestra, so she is the sentence’s “agent,” but not its subject.)
2. The door was shut tight. (The subject, “door,” received the action, “was shut.” We don’t know,
from this sentence at least, who performed the action.)
How to Identify Active and Passive Voice

To find out if a sentence is written in the active or passive voice, ask yourself these two

1. What is the subject?

2. Is the subject doing something?

If the answer to question 2 is ―Yes,‖ the sentence is active; if the answer is ―No,‖ the sentence is

Thanks for the question, Manju!

English Active and Passive Voice

English Active and Passive Voice

Voice is the property of verb which shows whether the subject is performing or

experiencing the action.

There are two kinds of voice:

Active voice: If the subject does the work himself or herself, it is in active voice.

Passive voice: If something is done for or to the subject, it is in passive voice.

General Rules:

Subject Verb Object

Rahim teaches Mohsin. Active

Mohsin is taught by Rahim Passive

Following are the rules for changing active voice into passive voice:

1. Subject of the active voice shall become the object of the passive voice.

I : (by) me We : (by) us

You : (by) you He : (by) him

She : (by) her It : (by) it

They : (by) them Who : (by) whom

2. Use the form of verb ‘to be’ (is, are, etc.) between subject and object in the passive voice.

3. Verb should be changed to past participle (3rd form)

4. Use ‘by’ before object.

5. Object of the active voice shall become subject of passive voice.

Me : I us : we

You : You him : he

Her : She it : it

Them : they whom : who


1. Passive voice can be made only of transitive verb, i.e. if the verb is followed by an object.

2. Voice is changed in the same sentence i.e., if the Active voice is in the interrogative
sentence. Passive will also be in interrogative sentence.

Structure: Subject + Verb be+ past participle + by + object (noun or pronoun).

Present Indefinite Tense

Active Passive

[Subject + is/am/are+ 3rd form

+by + object]

Karim teases him. He is teased by him

She beats her husband. Her husband is beaten by her.

Negative Sentence:

Active Passive


She does not listen to you. You are not listened to by her.

You do not favour her. She is not favoured by you.

Interrogative Sentence:

Active Passive

[Is/Am/Are+subject + 3rd form

+by + object]

Do you teach him? Is he taught by you?

Do you respect me? Am I respected by you?

If the sentence begins with ‘when/where/why/how/what’ helping verb should be

put immediately after them.

Active Passive

How do you prepare tea? How is tea prepared by you?

When do you see T.V.? When is T.V. seen by you?

What do you like? What is liked by you?

If the sentence begins with ‘who’ or ‘whom’, change ‘who’ into ‘by whom’ and
‘whom’ into ‘who’ in the passive voice.

Active Passive

Who beats you? By whom are you beaten?

Whom do you love? Who is loved by you?

Past Continuous Tense

Active Passive

[Subject + was/were+ 3rd form +by

+ object]

I was revising the lesson Was the lesson being revised by


Were you reading the book? Was the book being read by you?

What was Rehman doing? What was being done by Rehman?

Past Perfect Tense

Active Passive

[Subject + had + been +3rd


I learn the poem. The poem was learnt by me.

Had she taken tea? Had tea been taken by her?

He had not ill-treated him He had not been ill-treated by


Future Indefinite Tense

Active Passive


This man will do my work. My work will be done by this


Will Mohsin help me? Shall I be helped by Mohsin?

What will Tariq do? What will be done by Tariq?

Who will repair the window? By whom will the window be


Future Perfect Tense

Active Passive

form +by + object]

This man will have done my My work will have been done by
work. this man.

He will not have abused me. I shall not have been abused by

The farmer will have watered the The field will have been watered by
field. the farmer.

Modal Verbs:

Can, may, must, shall, will, should, would, could and might are called modal verbs.

Active Passive

[Subject + modal verb+ be + 3rd

form +by + object]

Rizwan can win the prize. The prize can be won by Rizwan.

Mohsin must reward you. You must be rewarded by


May I help you? May you be helped by me?

Who will shut the door? By whom will the door be shut.

Imperative Sentence
Active Passive

Shut the door. Let the door be shut.

Open the box. Let the box be opened.

Close the door. Let the door be closed.

Do not starve the ox. Let the ox not be starved.

Inform the Police. Let the police be informed.

Change of voice of infinitives, verbs ‘to be’ and ‘to have’

Active Passive

There is no time to lose. There is not time to be lost.

He is a man to admire. He is a man to be admired.

I am to do this work. This work is to be done by me.

They are to sell the car. The car is to be sold by them.

Abdul was to do this work. This work was to be done by


I have to buy a book . A book has to be bought by me.

Abdul had to do this work. This work had to be done by


Verbs with two objects:

Active Passive

Rida gave me a book I was given a book by Rida. Or

A book was given to me by Rida.

We refused them admission. They were refused admission by

us. Or

Admission was refused to them

by us.

Where ‘by’ is not used.

With the following verbs, ‘by’ is not used in the passive voice:

i. alarmed at ii. Annoyed at

iii. contained in iv. Disgusted with

v. displeased with vi. Lined with

vii. married to viii. Satisfied with

ix. surprised at x. pleased with

Active Passive

The result surprised me. I am surprised at the result.

The news pleased him. He was pleased with the news.

The news alarmed him. He was alarmed at the news.

The bottle contains ink. Ink is contained in the bottle.

Passive Voice: When to Use It and When to Avoid It

Written by Tim Corson and Rebecca Smollett, University College Writing Centre

Printable PDF Version

Fair-Use Policy

What is passive voice?

In English, all sentences are in either "active" or "passive" voice:

active: Werner Heisenberg formulated the uncertainty principle in 1927.

passive: The uncertainty principle was formulated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927.

In an active sentence, the person or thing responsible for the action in the sentence comes first. In
a passive sentence, the person or thing acted on comes first, and the actor is added at the end,
introduced with the preposition "by." The passive form of the verb is signaled by a form of "to
be": in the sentence above, "was formulated" is in passive voice while "formulated" is in active.

In a passive sentence, we often omit the actor completely:

The uncertainty principle was formulated in 1927.

When do I use passive voice?

In some sentences, passive voice can be perfectly acceptable. You might use it in the following

1. The actor is unknown:

The cave paintings of Lascaux were made in the Upper Old Stone Age. [We don't know
who made them.]

2. The actor is irrelevant:

An experimental solar power plant will be built in the Australian desert. [We are not
interested in who is building it.]

3. You want to be vague about who is responsible:

Mistakes were made. [Common in bureaucratic writing!]

4. You are talking about a general truth:

Rules are made to be broken. [By whomever, whenever.]

5. You want to emphasize the person or thing acted on. For example, it may be your main

Insulin was first discovered in 1921 by researchers at the University of Toronto. It is still
the only treatment available for diabetes.

6. You are writing in a scientific genre that traditionally relies on passive voice. Passive
voice is often preferred in lab reports and scientific research papers, most notably in the
Materials and Methods section:

The sodium hydroxide was dissolved in water. This solution was then titrated with
hydrochloric acid.

In these sentences you can count on your reader to know that you are the one who did the
dissolving and the titrating. The passive voice places the emphasis on your experiment
rather than on you.

Note: Over the past several years, there has been a movement within many science
disciplines away from passive voice. Scientists often now prefer active voice in most
parts of their published reports, even occasionally using the subject "we" in the Materials
and Methods section. Check with your instructor or TA whether you can use the first
person "I" or "we" in your lab reports to help avoid the passive.

To learn more about the use of passive voice in the sciences, visit our handout on writing
in the sciences.

When should I avoid passive voice?

Passive sentences can get you into trouble in academic writing because they can be vague about
who is responsible for the action:
Both Othello and Iago desire Desdemona. She is courted. [Who courts Desdemona? Othello?
Iago? Both of them?]

Academic writing often focuses on differences between the ideas of different researchers, or
between your own ideas and those of the researchers you are discussing. Too many passive
sentences can create confusion:

Research has been done to discredit this theory. [Who did the research? You? Your professor?
Another author?]

Some students use passive sentences to hide holes in their research:

The telephone was invented in the nineteenth century. [I couldn't find out who invented the

Finally, passive sentences often sound wordy and indirect. They can make the reader work
unnecessarily hard. And since they are usually longer than active sentences, passive sentences
take up precious room in your paper:

Since the car was being driven by Michael at the time of the accident, the damages should be
paid for by him.

Weeding out passive sentences

If you now use a lot of passive sentences, you may not be able to catch all of the problematic
cases in your first draft. But you can still go back through your essay hunting specifically for
passive sentences. At first, you may want to ask for help from a writing instructor. The grammar
checker in your word processor can help spot passive sentences, though grammar checkers
should always be used with extreme caution since they can easily mislead you. To spot passive
sentences, look for a form of the verb to be in your sentence, with the actor either missing or
introduced after the verb using the word "by":

Poland was invaded in 1939, thus initiating the Second World War.

Genetic information is encoded by DNA.

The possibility of cold fusion has been examined for many years.

Try turning each passive sentence you find into an active one. Start your new sentence with the
actor. Sometimes you may find that need to do some extra research or thinking to figure out who
the actor should be! You will likely find that your new sentence is stronger, shorter, and more

Germany invaded Poland in 1939, thus initiating the Second World War.
DNA encodes genetic information.

Physicists have examined the possibility of cold fusion for many years.

Why Use the Passive?

1. When the agent of the action is unknown:

My wallet was stolen last night. (we don‘t know who stole the wallet)

2. When the agent is unimportant:

The new students‘ centre was completed last week. (the people who built the centre are
unnecessary information for the meaning of the sentence)

3. When the agent of the action is obvious from the context:

I was born in March of '55. (Everyone knows that it was my mother bore me then)

4. To emphasize (put importance on) the recipient (receiver) of the action:

a. Only Jane was injured in the accident; the remainder of the passengers were unhurt.(we want
Jane to be the subject of the sentence and at the beginning to emphasize her importance)

b. Erina was chosen as best student, and of course this made her happy. (the teacher who chose
Erina is not what we want to emphasize)

5. To connect ideas in different clauses more clearly:

a. Pharmacologists would like to study the natural ‗pharmacy‘ known as the rainforest, if this
can be done before clear-cutting destroys it. (in this sentence, keeping THIS near the first clause
makes the sentence‘s meaning clearer)

b. The music was being played too loud by the students, who were finally asked to turn it down.

6. To make generic statements, announcements, and explanations:

a. Something should be done about the traffic jams in this town.

b. Patrons are asked not to smoke.

c. It's said that it's going to rain tonight.(Often, people will say, 'They say that it's going to rain
tonight', the they being the weatherman.)
Here's a question from Brian in Iowa. He writes, “It drives me crazy when people write in
passive voice. How can I teach people how to tell the difference between passive and active
voice and to stay away from passive voice?”

Well, Brian is right, the first step is to help people understand the difference between active
and passive voice, because many people believe they should avoid the passive voice, but
fewer people can define it or recognize it.

What Is Active Voice?

I'll start with active voice because it's simpler. In an active sentence, the subject is doing the
action. A straightforward example is the sentence "Steve loves Amy." Steve is the subject, and
he is doing the action: he loves Amy, the object of the sentence.

Another example is the title of the Marvin Gaye song “I Heard It through the Grapevine.” "I" is
the subject, the one who is doing the action. "I" is hearing "it," the object of the sentence.

What Is Passive Voice?

In passive voice, the target of the action gets promoted to the subject position. Instead of
saying, "Steve loves Amy," I would say, "Amy is loved by Steve." The subject of the sentence
becomes Amy, but she isn't doing anything. Rather, she is just the recipient of Steve's love.
The focus of the sentence has changed from Steve to Amy.

If you wanted to make the title of the Marvin Gaye song passive, you would say “It was heard
by me through the grapevine,” not such a catchy title anymore.

Is "To Be" a Sign of a Passive Sentence?

A lot of people think all sentences that contain a form of the verb “to be” are in passive voice,
but that isn't true. For example, the sentence "I am holding a pen" is in active voice, but it
uses the verb “am,” which is a form of “to be.” The passive form of that sentence is "The pen
is being held by me."

Notice that the subject, the pen, isn't doing anything in that sentence. It's not taking an
action; it's passive. One clue that your sentence is passive is that the subject isn't taking a
direct action.

Is Passive Voice Always Wrong?

Passive voice isn't wrong, but it's often a poor way to present your thoughts.
Another important point is that passive sentences aren't incorrect; it’s just that they often
aren't the best way to phrase your thoughts. Sometimes passive voice is awkward and other
times it’s vague. Also, passive voice is usually wordy, so you can tighten your writing if you
replace passive sentences with active sentence.

When you put sentences in passive voice, it's easy to leave out the person or thing doing the
action. For example, "Amy is loved," is passive. The problem with that sentence is that you
don't know who loves Amy.

Politicians often use passive voice to intentionally obscure the idea of who is taking the
action. Ronald Reagan famously said, “Mistakes were made,” when referring to the Iran-
Contra scandal. Other examples of passive voice for political reasons could include “Bombs
were dropped,” and “Shots were fired.” Pay attention to the news and listen for examples of
passive voice.

Also, a reader named Matthew commented that businesses sometimes use passive voice. He
notes that it sounds better to write, "Your electricity will be shut off," than "We, the electric
company, will be shutting off your power."

Is Passive Voice Hard to Understand?

A recent study suggests that less educated people--those who dropped out of school when
they were 16--have a harder time understanding sentences written in the passive voice than
those written in active voice. I only had access to the press release, not the original study, but
the results made it seem as if you should stick with active voice if you're writing for the
general population.

Is Passive Voice OK in Crime Reports?

On the other hand, sometimes passive voice does have advantages. For example, if you truly
don’t know who is taking the action, then you can’t name the person. This is especially
common with crime reports. For example, a security guard might write "The store was
robbed," because nobody knows who the robber was.

Can Passive Voice Work in Fiction Writing?

Passive voice is also sometimes useful in fiction writing. For example, if you were writing a
mystery novel and you wanted to highlight missing cookies because they are central to the
story, passive voice is the best option. It would make more sense to write, "The cookies were
stolen," instead of "Somebody stole the cookies."

The difference is subtle, but in the passive sentence “The cookies were stolen,” the focus is
on the cookies. In “Somebody stole the cookies,” the focus would be on the unknown
Passive voice can be helpful if you want to create a sense of mystery in your sentence, which
is also a reason that it's not usually a good choice when you're writing nonfiction and you
want your writing to be clear.

Why Is Passive Voice Recommended for Science Writing?

An exception is that scientists are often encouraged to write in passive voice to lend their
writing a sense of objectivity--to take themselves and their actions and opinions out of the
experimental results. I used to be a scientist and I always found that odd. It felt as if we were
trying to hide that real people did the experiments.

Some scientific style guides do allow for a limited use of active voice (1). For example, it may
be OK to write, "We sequenced the DNA," instead of "The DNA was sequenced," but it's still
considered bad for scientists to insert themselves into conclusions. For example, it would be
bad scientific form to write "We believe the mutation causes cancer." But you still don't need
passive voice to achieve your goals. For example, the active sentence "We believe the
mutation causes cancer," could be changed to "The data suggests that the mutation causes
cancer." That's still active, but it eliminates the sense of subjectivity.

Did Strunk & White Get Passive Voice Wrong?

Finally, I have to include a note about Strunk & White’s treatment of passive voice. In their
classic book, The Elements of Style, three of their four examples of passive voice aren’t
actually passive voice sentences. I’ve included two links below that explain the problems,
but if you rely on The Elements of Style, as so many people do, be aware that this is a problem
with that book.

50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

English Passive Voice (Wikipedia)

A quick congratulations to two Quick and Dirty Tips podcasts who are reaching a
milestone. The Nutrition Diva and The Public Speaker are each releasing their 100th podcast
episode this week. If you aren’t already subscribed to their shows, check them out. You can
learn one hundred ways to eat better and one hundred ways to communicate more

You can also always find more great Grammar Girl articles in the archives.

Web Bonus: Watson & Crick

Watson and Crick's famous paper about the discovery of the structure of DNA, written in
1953, contains both active and passive sentences;

We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.). (active)

We have made the usual chemical assumptions, namely, that each chain consists of
phosphate diester groups joining beta-D-deoxyribofuranose residues with 3',5' linkages.

If it is assumed that the bases only occur in the structure in the most plausible tautomeric
forms (that is, with the keto rather than the enol configurations) it is found that only specific
pairs of bases can bond together. (passive)

It has been found experimentally that the ratio of the amounts of adenine to thymine, and
the ratio of guanine to cytosine, are always very close to unity for deoxyribose nucleic acid.

 Setting the Stage: Active vs Passive

I began class with a simple question: would you rather watch Lebron James play basketball or
some fat slob in row C eat popcorn? Other than the two unintelligent Kobe Bryant fans, the class
shouted, "Lebron James! He's the best! Who wants to watch some fat guy eat popcorn?"

My eyes enlarged and I shot fire out of them: one flame for each student. The classroom burned
as I unleashed my demoniacal revenge for being peppered with essays full of passive sentences,
the writing equivalent of the popcorn eater in the third row, when I could have been reading
essays with active voice, the writing equivalent of Lebron James.

If I ever teach again, I'm going to explain the difference between active and passive voice before
my students write their essays and I turn them into ashes with fiery darts.

Just in case you're interested in hiring a writing teacher, here's what I came up with:

 Understanding Active vs. Passive Voice

Active voice is the voice used to indicate that the subject of the sentence is performing the action
or causing the action. Passive voice is the voice used when the subject is the recipient of the
action. Strong writing uses active voice. Passive voice should only be used in the following

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 When intentionally hiding the subject of the sentence. For example, a politician might say,
"Mistakes were made."
 When intentionally truing to minimize the guilt of the subject. For example, a cheating husband
might respond, "Adultery was committed by me."
 When passive voice better emphasizes the main point of the passage. For example, Children
were harmed by unlicensed bus drivers.

 Active vs. Passive Voice in Student Writing

Knowing when to use active and passive voice does not mean students will use it correctly.
Show them. Instruct them to copy the following in their notebooks. If they still don't improve
their use of passive and active voice, have them make phylacteries.

 If the subject receives the action or is not doing the action, the voice is passive.
 Passive voice is usually wordier.
 If the subject performs the action, the voice is active.
 Active voice is preferred because it is direct and concise.
 Active voice is the equivalent of watching Lebron James.
 Passive voice is the equivalent of watching corn grow.
 Active voice creates interest.
 Passive voice creates boredom, world hunger, and depletes the ozone layer (OK, I made the last
two up).
 Passive voice contains a lot of to be verbs.

For additional suggestions on writing in the active voice, follow the link. For additional
suggestions on personal voice in writing, follow this link.
 Procedures

 Instruct students to copy in their notebooks the differences between passive and active voice.
Provide examples.
 If revising an essay, pair students.
 Instruct them to read their rough drafts and circle passive voice constructions.
 Instruct each pair to exchange rough drafts and identify passive voice constructions in their
partner's writing.
 Rewrite paragraphs in active voice.
 Share revisions with the class.
 Motivate students with a paragraph challenge.
 Click on the Using Strong Verbs lesson or Eliminate To Be Verbs lesson at the bottom of this
article for suggestions.
 If these suggestions don't work, try my shooting flames from your eyes trick explained above
and imagine LeBron James in the NBA Finals.

This lesson was inspired by Lebron James and Mini Lessons for Revision by Susan Geye, 1997,
Absey & Co. Spring, TX.

 For a complete semester standards based curriculum guide, follow the link.

ransformation is changing the form of a sentence without changing its meaning. In the exams
transformation should be done according to the direction given in the question paper. In doing
transformation a student should have a fairly well knowledge about the kinds of sentence and
their formation. A brief direction about doing transformation is given below.
According to the meaning:

Affirmative to negative:
Rule 1: Only/ alone/ merely → Replaced by → None but(person)/ nothing but(things)/ not
more than or not less than(number)
Ex: Aff: Only Allah can help us. Neg: None but Allah can help us.
Aff: He has only a ball. Neg: He has nothing but a ball.
Aff: He has only ten taka. Neg: He has not more than ten taka.

Rule 2: Must → Replaced by → Cannot but/ Cannot help+ (v+ing).

Ex: Aff: We must obey our parents. Neg: we cannot but obey our parents/ we cannot help
obeying our parents.

Rule 3: Both----and → Replaced by → not only ---- but also.

Ex: Aff: Both Dolon and Dola were excited.
Neg: Not only dolon but also Dola were present.

Rule 4: and ( if join two words) → Replaced by → Not only ----- but also.
Ex: aff: He was obedient and gentle. Neg: He was not only obedient but also gentle.

Rule 5: Everyone/ everybody/every person/ (every + common noun)/all → Replaced by → There

is no + attached word + but.
Ex: Aff: Every mother loves her child.
Neg: There is no mother but loves her child.

Rule 6: As soon as → Replaced by → No sooner had ----- Than.

Ex: Aff: As soon as the thief saw the police, he ran away. Neg: No sooner had the thief saw the
police he ran away.

Rule 7: Absolute Superlative degree → Replaced by → No other+ attached word+so+ positive

form+ as+subject.
Ex: aff: Dhaka is the biggest city in Bangladesh.
Neg: No other city is as big as Dhaka in Bangladesh.

Rule8: Sometimes affirmative sentences are changed into negative by using opposite words.
Before the word, off course ‗not‘ is used.
Ex: Aff: I shall remember you. Neg: I shall not forget you.

Rule 9: Always → Replaced by → Never.

Ex: aff: Raven always attends the class. Neg: Raven never misses the class.

Rule 10: Too ---- to → Replaced by → so ---that+ can not/could not(in past).
Ex: Aff: He is too weak to walk. Neg: He is so weak that he cannot walk.

Rule 11: As – as → Replaced by → Not less – than.

Ex: Aff: Simi was as wise as Rimi. Neg: Simi was not less wise than Rimi.

Rule 12: Universal truth are change by making them negative interrogative.
Ex: Aff: The Sun sets in the west. Neg: Doesn‘t the Sun set in the west.

Rule 13: Sometimes → Replaced by → Not + always.

Ex: Aff: Raven sometimes visits me. Neg: Raven doesn‘t always visit me.

Rule 14: Many → Replaced by → Not a few.

Ex: Aff: I have many friends. Neg: I donot have few friends.

Rule 15: A few → Replaced by → not many.

Ex: Aff: Bangladesh has a few scholars. Neg: Bangladesh doesn‘t have many scholars.
Rule 16: Much → Replaced by → A little.
Ex: Aff: He belongs much money. Neg: He doesn‘t belong a little money.

Rule 17: A little → Replaced by → not much.

Ex: Aff: Dolon has a little riches. Neg: Dolon doesn‘t have much riches.


Rule 1: If the sentence is in the affirmative you have to change it into negative interrogative. If
it is in negative then you have to change it into bare interrogative.
Ex: Ass: He was very gentle.
Int: was n‘t he very gentle?
Aff: He is not a good person.
Int: Is he a good person?

Rule 2: No auxiliary verb in sentence →→ Change it by using →→ Do/does/did Or

Ex: Ass:He plays Football.
Int: Does he play football?
Ass: They did not play football yesterday.
Int: Did they play football yesterday?

Rule3: Never → Replaced by → Ever.

Ass: I never drink tea.
Int: Do I ever drink tea?

Rule 4: Every body/everyone/ All → Replaced by → Who + Don‘t/ Doesn‘t/ Didn‘t

Ex: Everybody wishes to be happy.
Int : Who doesn‘t wish to be happy?

Rule 5: Every + noun → Replaced by → Is there any + noun+ Who don‘t/doesn‘t/didn‘t.

Ex: Ass: Every man wishes to be happy.
Int: Is there any man who doesn‘t wish to be happy?

Rule 6: No body/ no one / None → Replaced by → Who.

Ex: Nobody could count my love for you.
Int: Who could ever count my love for you?

Rule 7 : There is no → Replaced by → Is there any/ Who(person)/ What( thing).

Ex: Ass: There is no use of this law.
Int: What is the use of this law.
Ass: There is no man happier than Jamil.
Int: Who is Happier than jamil.

Rule 8: It Is no → Replaced by → Is there any/Why.

Ex: Ass: It is no use of taking unfair means in the exam.
Int: Why take unfair means in the exam? Or,
Is there any use of this law?

Rule 9: It Doesn‘t matter → Replaced by → what though/ Does it matter.

Ex: Ass: It does not matter if you fail in te exam.
Int: What though if you fail in the exam?

Interrogative to assertive is to be done doing Vice versa.

Exclamatory sentence to Assertive sentence

Rule1: Subject and Verb of exclamatory sentence are to be used as the subject and verb of
assertive sentence at the outset of the sentence.
How/what → Replace by → Very(before adjective)/ Great(before noun)
Ex: How fortunate you are!
Ass: You are very fortunate.
Exc: What a fool you are!
Ass: You are a great fool.

Rule 2: Sometimes the subject and verb may be eclipsed.

Ex: What a beautiful scenery!
Ass: It is a very beautiful scenery.
Ex: What a pity!
Ass: It is a great pity.

Rule 3: Hurrah/ Bravo → Replace by → I/we rejoice that/ It is a matter of joy that.
Ex: Hurrah! We have own the game.
Ass: It is a matter of joy that we have won the game.

Rule 4: Alas → Replace by → I/we Mourn that/ It is a matter of sorrow or grief that.
Ex: Alas! He has failed.
Ass: We mourn that he has failed.

Rule 5: Had/were/If /Would that(at the out set) → Replaced by → I wish + subject again +
were/ had+ rest part.
Ex: Had I the wings of a bird!
Ass: I wish I had the wings of a bird.
Ex: Were I a bird!
Ass: I wish I were a bird.
Ex: If I were young again!
Ass: I wish I were young again.
Ex: would that I could be a child!
Ass: I wish I could be a child.

Assertive to exclamatory is to be done doing Vice versa.

Imperative to assertive

Rule 1: Add subject + should in doing assertive.

Ex: Do the work.
Ass: you should do the work.

Rule 2: Please/kindly → Replaced by → you are requested to.

Ex: Please, help me.
Ass: You are requested to help me.

Rule 3: Do not → Replaced by → You should not.

Ex: Do not run in the sun.
Ass: you should not run in the sun.

Rule 4: Never → Replaced by → you should never.

Ex: Never tell a lie.
Ass: You should never tell a lie.

Rule 5: Let us → Replaced by → We should.

Ex: Let us go out for a walk.
Ass: We should go out for a walk.

Rule 6: Let + noun/pronoun → Replaced by → Subject + might.

Ex: Let him play football.
Ass: He might play football.

Change of degree

Rule1: If the superlative degree says about the best thing then the rule is:-
For comparative,use –
subject +verb + adjective/adverb(comp. form) + Than any other + rest part
For positive, use-
No other + rest part after supr. Degree + verb + so/as + positive form of adj/adv + as + sub.
Ex: Su: Suman is the tallest boy in the class.
Com: Suman is taller than any other boy in the class.
Pos: No other boy in the class is as tall as Suman.

Rule 2: If In superlative degree ‗One of the‘ is transformed in this way:

Comparative: Sub+verb +comp. form +than most other+ Rest part.
Positive: Very few+ rest part after supr. Degree + verb + so/as + positive form of adj/adv + as +

Ex: Nazrul was one of the greatest poets in Bangladesh.

Comp.: Nazrul was greater than most other poets in Bangladesh.
Positive: Very few poets in Bangladesh were so great as Nazrul.

Note: Superlative: Of all/ of any

Comparative: Than all other/than any other.
Positive: It does not exist.

Ex: Sup: Mr. khan is the oldest of all men in the village.
Com: Mr. Khan is older than all other men in the village.
Pos: No other man is as old as Mr. Khan.

Rule 3: Simple comparative is transformed into positive by using

(not so + adj/adv+as)/ (so+adj/adv+as)if negative. Second noun or pronoun is used first.
Ex: 1. com: Rina is wiser than Mina.
Pos: Mina is not so wise as Rina.
2. Com: Mina is not wiser than Rina.‘
Pos: Rina is as wise as Mina.

Rule 4: No/not less --- than is transformed into positive by using as +adj/adv+ as
Ex: com: Karim is not less meritorious than Suman.
Pos: Karim is so meritorious as Suman.

Complex →→→ Simple →→→ compound

Rule 1:Since/As/When Change is to be made in the subordinate clause .

When subjects are same.

Simple: 1) Omit since/as/when.

2) (Verb+ing) of the subordinate clause.
3) then write the rest part.
4) use subject with the principal clause.
5) Principal clause remains unchanged.
Ex: Since the boy worked hard, he made a good result.
Simple: Working hard, the boy made a good result.

Compound: 1) Omit since /as /when

2) write down the rest part.
3) join clauses by using and, and so, and therefore
4) write the main clause unchanged.

Ex: The boy worked hard and made a good result.

Rue2: In case of Be verb in subordinate clause:

1) Use being/ Because of + Pronoun/noun(possessive form)+ being.

Ex: Since he was weak, he could not work hard.
Simple: Because of his being weak, he could not work hard.
Compound: He was weak and therefore could not work hard.
Note: and therefore, is used for showing reasons.

Rule3: When the subject of clauses are different:

1)Subject of s.c.
2) Verb+ing ( be verb → being; Have verb → having)
Ex: Since the weather was foul, we did not go out.
Sim: The weather being foul, we did not go out.

Compound: use ‗and therefore‘to join two clauses.

Ex: The weather was foul and therefore we did not go out.

Rule 4: If,‘ is Replaced by – ‗by + (verb+ing)

Ex: If you work hard, you will succeed in life.
Simple: By working hard, you will succeed in life.

Compound: 1) Omit if+subject.

2. use ‗and‘ to join two clauses.
Ex: Compound: Work hard and you will succeed in life.

Rule 5: Simple: If-not/unless, is replaced by, - without+( verb+ing)

Ex: Complex: If you donot work hard, you will fail in the examination.
Sim: Without working hard, you will fail in the examination.

Compound: Use or‘/otherwise to join two clauses.

Ex: Work hard or you will fail in the examination.

Rule 6: Simple: Though‘ is replaced by In spite of+ Possessive form of the subject+ (verb+ing)
Ex: Com: Though he tried heart and soul, he could not succeed in life.
Sim: In spite of his trying heart and soul he could not succeed in life.

Compound: Use ‗but‘ to join two clauses.

Rule 7: Simple: So that is replaced by to/in order to.
Ex: Comp: He works hard so that he may prosper in life.
Sim: he works hard to/in order to prosper in life.

Compound: ―and want/wants to‖ is used to join two clauses.

Ex: He works hard and wants to prosper in life.

Rule 8: Simple: ‗so + adjective + that‘ is replaced by ‗Too + adjective + to‘

Ex: The boy is so foolish that he cannot understand it.
Sim: The boy is too foolish to understand it.

Compound: Use ‗And Therefore‘ to make it a compound sentence.

Ex: He is so foolish and therefore cannot understand it.

Rule 9: When(if mentions time) is replaced by

For short time – At
For month or Season – In
For age--- at the age of.
Ex: She woke up when it was midnight.
Simple: She woke up at midnight.
Com: When it is spring, the cuckoo sings.
Sim: In Spring the cuckoo sings.
Con: When Samira was four she went to school.
Sim: At the age of four, Samira went to school.

Compound: Use and to join clauses.

Ex: She woke up and it was midnight.

Rule 10: Simple: If the clause says a bout a continuous fact then use-
At the time of instead of ‗When‘
Ex: When I was eating the phone rang.
Sim: At the time of my eating, the phone rang.
Compound: Use ‗And‘.
Ex: I was eating and the phone rang.

Rule 11: Simple: Noun clause can be replaced by noun.

Ex: Com: He admitted that he was guilty.
Sim: He admitted his guilt.
Com: That he is honest is known to all.
Sim: his honesty is known to all.

Compound: Use ‗And‘.

Ex: He is honest and it is known to all.

Rule 12: Simple: If Complex sentence is made with relative pronoun(who, what, which, that),
omit it and make (verb+ing).
Com: The Doctor who is working in the hospital is known to all.
Sim: The doctor working in the hospital is known to all.
Note: If the verb is in the past participle it remains unchanged.
Ex: The picture which was drawn by Liza is very fine.
Sim: The picture drawn by Liza is very fine.

Rule 13: Simple: Adjective Clause is changed into - Adjective, Past participle Phrase, Noun in
apposition, infinitive.

ex: A man who is drowning catches at a straw.
Sim: A drowning man catches at a straw.
Compound: A man is drowning and so catches at a straw.
Past participle phrase:
Ex: The answer that he wrote was not correct.
Sim: The answer written by him was not correct.
Compound: He wrote the answer and it was not correct.
Gerundial Infinitive:
Ex: I have no money that I can lend you.
Sim: I have no money to lend you.
Compound: I have no money and I cannot lend you.

Rule 14: In the compound ― not only---- But also‖ is Changed by ―Besides + (Verb +ing)‖
In the simple.
Ex: Mr.Khan not only teaches us English but also writes novels.
Sim: Besides teaching us English, Mr. Khan Writes novels.