Active vs. Passive Verb
In English, sentences can be active or passive. Tenses also have ‘active forms’ and ‘passive forms.’ Here, we have a look at the differences.
In active sentences, the thing/person doing the action is the subject of the sentence and the thing/person is the object. In these sentences, the thing/person doing the action is important. Most sentences are active.
Subject + Verb + Object
Jeremy + washes + the dishes.
The professor + teaches + the students.
In passive sentences, the thing/person receiving the action is the subject of the sentence. The thing/person doing the action (the agent) can be put at the end of the sentence using ‘by’. The passive is used when the thing/person receiving the action is more important or should be emphasised. The passive form is used if you do not know who/what is doing the action or if you don’t want to mention who/what is doing the action. It is often used in formal sentences.
Subject + be + past participle + by + Agent
The dishes + were + washed (+ by + John).
The students + are + taught + by + Sally.
Please note that the ‘be’ verb takes the tense. That is, if the sentence is in the past simple, we use ‘was/were + pp’; if it is present perfect, we use ‘have/has been + pp’; if it is present continuous we use ‘am/are/is being + pp’ and so on.
The police arrested the thief. Active – past simple ‘arrested’
The thief was arrested (by the police). Passive – past simple ‘was + pp’
Below are 3 active sentences. Write the passive form – remember to look at the tense of the verb.
– Once a week, Tom cleans the house.
– Sarah is writing the letter.
– Sam repaired the car.
Below are 3 passive sentences. Write the active form.
– The customer was being helped (by the salesman) when the thief arrived.
– Buckingham Palace has been visited by many tourists.
– The play was written by Shakespeare.