VERB VOICE

Lesson Four

How to Convert Active Voice into the Passive Voice

In the event of converting Active Voice into Passive Voice, the active voice’s “subject” is moved and placed in the position of its “object” preceded by the preposition “by” (optional). Conversely, the active voice’s “object” is moved into the position of its “subject”.

In other words, the positions which the subject and object occupy in the active voice are swapped in passive voice.

Guidelines to Convert Active Voice into Passive Voice

The following rules must be observed in the event of converting a sentence in the Active Voice to Passive Voice:

Rule #1

First and foremost, you must make careful effort to see if the active sentence has a direct objectOpens in new window. This is crucial, because a sentence with no direct object cannot be converted into passive voice. If there exists a direct object in the active sentence then the conversion into passive voice is possible.

To make the conversion, simply remove the object of the active voice and insert it in the position of subject (Beginning of the sentence) in the passive voice. Conversely, remove the subject of the active voice into the position of object in the passive voice.

Consider these examples:

Active Voice

  • Andy built the house.
    (Subject → Andy; Object → house)

Passive Voice

  • The house is built by Andy.

Note that it is acceptable to omit subject of active voice in passive voice if the sense is meaningful regardless:

Active Voice

  • We should obey teachers.
    (Subject → we; Direct object → teachers)

Passive Voice

  • Teachers should be obeyed by us.
  • Teachers should be obeyed. (optional)

Rule #2

Passive voice is dependent; and as such, it needs a helping verbOpens in new window to express its action. Use the helping verb in the same tenseOpens in new window as the original active sentence.

Generally, the main verb of the active voice is converted into Past Participle (V3) variously as the case may be:

is / am / are / was / were + past participle
have been / has been / had been + past participle
will be / shall be / can be / may be + past participle
would be / could be / should be / might be + past participle
Important!  

Note that Auxiliary VerbsOpens in new window in passive voice are used according to the tense of the sentence. The verb to be indicates the tense, and the past participle indicates the action.

Rule #3

Insert the active sentence’s subject into a phrase beginning with the preposition by. In other words, the person or thing that performs the action is presented by the preposition by in the passive voice.

Consider these examples:

Active Voice

  • He bought the shoes.

Passive Voice

  • The shoes were bought by him.

Although, we have occasions where other prepositions: ‘at,’ ‘in,’ ‘with,’ ‘for’, are appropriate instead of by:

For example:

Active Voice

  • I know him.

Passive Voice

  • He is known to me.

Rule #4

When the subject in an active sentence is a pronoun: ‘I,’ ‘we,’ ‘you,’ ‘he,’ ‘she,’ ‘they,’ ‘it’, it changes in passive sentence as follows:

ActiveBecomesPassive
‘I’ becomes ‘me’
‘We’ becomes ‘us’
‘You’ remains ‘you’
‘He’ becomes ‘him’
‘She’ becomes ‘her’
‘They’ becomes ‘them’
‘It’ remains ‘it’

For example:

Active Voice

  • He sent a message to me.

Passive Voice

  • I was sent a message by him.

However, when the object in an active sentence is a pronoun: ‘me,’ ‘us,’ ‘you,’ ‘him,’ ‘her,’ ‘they,’ ‘it’, it changes in passive sentence as follows:

‘me’ becomes ‘I’
‘us’ becomes ‘we’
‘You’ remains ‘you’
‘him’ becomes ‘he’
‘her’ becomes ‘she’
‘them’ becomes ‘they’
‘It’ remains ‘it’

For example:

Active Voice

  • I sent him a message.

Passive Voice

  • He was sent a message by me.

Rule #5: Subject–verb Agreement

You must ensure that the first verb agree with the new subject in passive voice.

Observe the following examples:

Active Voice

  • He threw the balls.
    [Subject of Active Voice → He; verb → threw]

Passive Voice

  • The balls were thrown by him.
    [subject of passive voice → balls; first verb → were]

Active Voice

  • He threw the ball.
    [Subject of Active Voice → He; verb → threw]

Passive Voice

  • The ball was thrown by him.
    [Subject of passive voice → ball; first verb → was]

Rule #6

If there is combination of two objects (direct and indirect objects), only one object is swapped. The second object remains static.

For example:

Active Voice

  • She gave me a laptop.
    [Subject → she; verb → gave; indirect object → me; direct object → laptop]

Active Voice

  • A laptop was given to me by her. Or alternatively:
  • I was given a laptop by her.

Quick Observations on Direct and Indirect Objects

Direct ObjectOpens in new window A nounOpens in new window, noun phrase or pronounOpens in new window that refers to the person or thing to which an action is done to or for.

Indirect ObjectOpens in new window A noun, noun phraseOpens in new window or pronoun that refers to a person or thing that is directly affected by the action of a verb.

Cases where changing Active Voice into Passive Voice is impossible

I.  Tenses. — The following Tenses cannot be converted into Passive Voice:

II.  Transitive and Intransitive Verbs— Only the verb which takes direct object can go into the passive. Intransitive verbs don’t take direct object; as a result, can’t be converted into passive voice.

Note that there are two types of verbs:

Although most verbs can be used both as transitive and as intransitive verbs. However, there are many verbs which are used only intransitively.

Examples:

Active voice sentence with transitive verb
  • We sent a message.

There is a direct object (a message) in this sentence. As a result, it could be changed into passive voice: “A message was sent by us.”

Active voice sentence with intransitive verb
  • We sleep.

There is no object in this sentence. As a result, converting it into passive voice is not possible.

Some verbs which are used only intransitively includes:

to becometo cometo denoteto sleep
to dieto goto fallto walk
to happento occurto rise

III.  Stative Verbs — A verb form that refers to states of being instead of actions. Generally, stative verbs are not used in the passive voice. Some examples of stative verbs include:

containcostsee
hearweighkeep
lacklikeresemble

Consider the following:

Active Voice
  • This computer costs one thousand dollars.
Attempt to convert to Passive Voice
  • This computer is cost one thousand dollars. (incorrect).

Therefore, we can’t convert an active voice sentence with stative verb into passive voice.

IV.  No One and Nobody:

  • Active.Nobody understands him.
    Passive. He is never understood.
  • Active.Nobody has understood me.
    Passive. – I have never been understood.
  • Active.No one ever said a word.
    Passive. – A word was never said.
    See next pages.
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