Passive voice in English

Did you break the window??
No, it wasn’t me! It was broken!!

Perhaps this is the most obvious example of a passive voice and many of us often come to it in a particular situation =)

A passive voice is a situation in which a subject (which can be either a person or a thing) does not perform the action itself, but is rather a “victim” of this action.

The window was broken.
The cake was cooked without much effort.
The room is decorated for the holiday.

To build a passive voice in English, we use the following scheme:

verb to be + verb of action in the third form or with the ending -ed

Below in the table we give examples of how the form of the passive voice varies depending on the grammatical tense and other details in the sentence:



Active Voice

Passive Voice

Present Simple

They clean the streets.

The streets are cleaned. 

Present Continuous

They are baking a cake.

A cake is being baked.

Past Simple

She receives the letter.

The letter was received.

Past Continuous

He was decorating the room.

The room was being decorated.

Future Simple

They will repair the bridge.

The bridge will be repaired.

be going to

She is going to finish the project today.

The project is going to be finished.

Present Perfect

He has written the book. 

The book has been written.

Past Perfect

They had broken the vase.

The vase had been broken. 

Future Perfect

I will have fixed the clock.

The clock will have been fixed. 


You must do the washing!

The washing must be done

We use passive voice:


  1. When the person performing the action is unknown, unimportant, or obvious from the context.

My coat was dry-cleaned yesterday. (Obviously, masters in dry cleaning did this)
Tea is made in India. (It’s not important who makes it)
Her bicycle was stolen last week. (It is not known who stole it)


  1. When the action itself or the result is more important than those who perform it.

20 new hospitals will be opened this year.
All products are checked by health control.


  1. When we talk about an unpleasant event or action and do not want to voice who is to blame.

A lot of mistakes have been made. (Instead of blaming the person for mistakes)

When creating the passive voice, you need to remember some of its features:


  1. Only transitive verbs (those followed by an object) can take the passive form:

My mom painted a picture. (Active) - A picture was painted by my mom. (Passive)
They traveled a lot last year. (Intransitive verb)


  1. If we still need to say who performs the action, we introduce an agent into the sentence using the word BY. If we want to say that the action was done using something, we add the WITH + material / instrument / ingredient construct

The fence was painted by my brother.
The fence was painted with a brush.


  1. If the preposition is present in the active form, then it is kept in the passive too.

They congratulated him on passing his exams. (Active)
He was congratulated on passing his exams. (Passive)

Also, a passive voice can have a personal and impersonal form by using such verbs as: think, believe, say, report, know, expect, consider, understand, etc.

Active: People believe that he was the first man on the Moon.
Passive: It is believed that he was the first man on the Moon. (personal construction)
              He is believed to be the first man on the Moon. (impersonal construction)


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