Active and Passive Voice

Lesson Audio

Sometimes active and passive voice can be confusing. Let's review the active voice first with an example sentence:

Robin locked the door.

The subject is "Robin" and "door" is receiving the action (or object of the verb "locked". The emphasis is on the subject, "Robin" because she is doing the action.

We use the passive voice when it's not known or it's not important to know who or what is doing the action.

Let's compare the active sentence with the passive form:

The door was locked by Robin. OR The door was locked.

In the passive form, "door" is the main subject. In other words, the emphasis is now on the object or thing that's receiving the action. *Notice the verb "was" that has now been added. You can use the passive voice in the past, present or future tense; just be careful with the verbs of "be". Here are some more example sentences in both active and passive forms with different tenses.

Past Tense
Active:  The company told us about the layoffs
Passive:  We were told about the layoffs (by the company).
was, were + past participle

Past Tense
Active: The choir sang the song.

Passive: The song was sung by the choir.
was, were + past participle

Present Perfect Tense (no specific time reference)
Active:  The storms have destroyed many buildings in the area.
Passive:  Many buildings in the area have been destroyed by the storms.
has/have + been + past participle

Present Perfect Tense (no specific time reference)
Active:  Mary has used all her vacation time.
Passive:  All her (Mary's) vacation time has been used.
has/have + been + past participle

Present Tense
Active: Jim reminds me everyday that I have to finish my work on time.
Passive: I am reminded everyday (by Jim) that I have to finish my work on time. 
am, is, are + past participle

Present Tense
Active: She greets me with a sweet smile.
Passive: I am greeted (by her) with a sweet smile.
am, is, are + past participle

Future Tense
Active: Anna will call Jon to confirm the appointment.
Passive: Jon will be called by Anna to confirm the appointment.
will + be + past participle

Future Tense
Active: They are going to notify everyone about the changes.
Passive: Everyone is going to be notified about the changes (by them).
am, is, are + going to + be + past participle

Practice with active/passive voice: