The passive voice is used to show interest in the person or object that experiences an action rather than the person or object that performs the action. In other words, the most important thing or person becomes the subject of the sentence.
- He knew that the church had been built in 1915.
- I am so tired of being lectured to by my boss.
- She would like to be promoted.
Form of Passive
Subject + finite form of to be + Past Participle (3rd column of irregular verbs)
Example- A letter was written.
When rewriting active sentences in passive voice, note the following:
- The object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence
- The finite form of the verb is changed (to be + past participle) the subject of
- The active sentence becomes the object of the passive sentence (or is dropped)
When should we use the Passive?
When we want to change the focus of the sentence: The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. (We are more interested in the painting than the artist in this sentence)
When who or what causes the action is unknown or unimportant or obvious or ‘people in general’:
- He was arrested (obvious agent, the police).
- My bike has been stolen (unknown agent).
- The road is being repaired (unimportant agent).
- The form can be obtained from the post office (people in general).
In factual or scientific writing: The chemical is placed in a test tube and the data entered into the computer.
In formal writing instead of using someone/ people/ they (these can be used in speaking or informal writing): The brochure will be finished next month.
In order to put the new information at the end of the sentence to improve style: Three books are used regularly in the class. The books were written by Dr. Bell.
When the subject is very long: I was surprised by how well the students did in the test. (More natural than: ‘how well the students did in the test surprised me’)