Rules of active and passive voice! How can you turn an active sentence into a passive one? In this article, you’ll get the answer to questions like this. You’ll learn 16 general rules that you should apply to turn active sentences into passive ones with examples.
Rule 1: Subject-verb Agreement Rules of Active and Passive Voice
The subject and the verb must be in the correct form.
He gives me Scissors.
Scissors is given to me by him. (The noun “Scissors” used in singular form only)
He played Billiards.
Billiards was played by him.
He was playing with us.
We were being played with him.
In the first two examples, the nouns Scissors and Billiards are singular and are therefore followed by singular verbs.
Rule 2: Conjugate the auxiliary verb in the same verb tense as the active voice sentence. The tense isn’t changed in passive voice. The verb “to be” is, am, are is used in present simple tense, and was, were is used in the simple past tense.
He likes me. (Present Simple Active)
I am liked by him. (Present Simple Passive)
The panel interviewed him yesterday. (Past Simple Active)
He was interviewed yesterday. (Past simple Passive)
Rule 3: Irrespective of the tense, every passive sentence always takes the form of “be (is, am, are, was, were) + third form such as played, seen, driven, cooked, studied, etc. of the main verb.
Present Simple Tense
Active Voice: He respects me.
Passive voice: I am respected by him.
Past Simple Tense
Active Voice: She ripped my dress.
Passive voice: My dress was ripped by her.
Active: He will respect me.
Passive: I will be respected by him.
Present Continuous Tense
Active: They are redecorating the room.
Passive: The room is being redecorated by them.
Past Continuous Tense
Active: They aren’t playing tennis.
Passive: Tennis isn’t being played by them.
Future Continuous Tense
Active: He will be respecting me.
Passive: I will be being respected by him.
Present Perfect Tense
Active: He has painted the house beautifully.
Passive: The house has been painted beautifully.
Past Perfect Tense
Active: He had not responded to me.
Passive: I had not been responded to by them.
Future Perfect Tense
Active: The Prime Minister will give the speech.
Passive: The speech will be given by the Prime Minister.
Rule 4: To mention the subject (Agent) in a passive sentence, use the preposition “by” before it. To show which instrument or thing uses the agent to do the action using “with” before it.
The dog was hit by a piece of stone. (A piece of stone fell and hit the dog)
The dog was hit with a piece of stone. (Someone hit the dog using a piece of stone)
We can also use to, at, in, etc., instead of “by” in some specific cases.
Active: They might know me.
Passive: I might be known to them. (not “by him.”)
Active: Dust covered the road.
Passive: The road was covered with dust.
Active: Snow covers the mountains.
Passive: The mountains are covered with snow.
Rule 5: If the sentence in active voice begins with indefinite pronouns like somebody, someone, one, etc., the agent is not mentioned.
Someone stole my money. (Active)
My money was stolen. (Passive)
Rule 6: Active sentences begin with negative indefinite pronouns (nobody, none, no-one, etc.) are converted into negative in the Passive Voice.
Active: No one rode the bike.
Passive: The bike was not ridden.
Active: No one told me he was sick.
Passive: I wasn’t told he was sick.
Rule 7: Some sentences take two objects. The Passive Voice can be made with either of the objects while the other remains in its place. Which object should be interchanged with the subject is depends on what we want to focus upon in the sentence. But the indirect object usually becomes the subject of the passive verb.
Active: She gave me a cup.
A cup was given to me by her.
I was given a cup by her.
Active: She gave the child ten rupees.
Ten rupees were given to the child by her.
The child was given ten rupees by her.
Active: She handed me some money.
I was handed some money.
Some money was handed to me.
Rule 10: Sometimes, the preposition comes between the verb and the object in active voice. In passive voice, the preposition will remain after the verb.
Active: Mom looks at us.
Passive: We are looked at by mom.
Active: They are talking about the problem.
Passive: The problem is being talked about.
Active: She must write to them.
Passive: They must be written to.
Rule 11: Passive Voice of an Infinitive.
Active Voice: Subject + auxiliary + to + Main Verb + Object
Passive Voice: Object + Auxiliary + to + be + (main verb) past participle + by + Subject
Active: She is to cook a meal.
Passive: A meal is to be cooked by her.
Active: We were to complete the task.
Passive: The task was to be completed by us.
Active: I have to do it.
Passive: It has to be done by me.
Active: Would you like someone to help you?
Passive: Would you like to be helped?
Rule 12: In an active voice sentence, some verbs such as make, bid, watch, feel, etc., are used with an infinitive (without to). In passive voice sentences, these verbs are used with an infinitive (to + verb)
Active: She made me clean the kitchen.
Passive: I was made to clean the kitchen by her.
Rule 13: If the noun clause is the object of a transitive verb in complex sentences. The Passive Voice can be made as follow.
Active Voice: I know who she is.
Passive Voice: It is known by me who she is.
Active: We believe that he is honest.
Passive: It is believed that he is honest.
Rule 14: If the active voice sentence begins with a personal pronoun (I, we, you, they, he, she, it), it changed into the objective case in passive voice. For example
Subject in active voice (I, We, You, They, He, She, It) Changed into (me, us, remains unchanged, him, her, them, remains unchanged)
The pronouns me, us, him, her, and them are objects of the active sentence it is changed into its subjective case, i.e., I, we, they, he, she
Active: She thanked me.
Passive: I was thanked by her. (“me” change to “I” and “she” changes to “her”)
Active: They invited us.
Passive: We were invited by them.
Rules 15: Passive Voice of phrasal verbs
The preposition in a phrasal verb should not be omitted in passive voice because it conveys a specific meaning which is different from the individual parts in the phrase.
Active: The crowd stared at the player.
Passive: The player was stared at by the crowd.
Active: Nobody responds to my call.
Passive: My call is not responded to.
Active: They were looking at the park.
Passive: The park was being looked at by them.
Rule 16: Rules of Active and Passive Voice of Modal Auxiliary Verbs
The modal auxiliary verbs are can, could, may, might, must, should, and ought to.
Active: Subject + Modal verb + Main verb + Object
Passive: Object + Modal verb + be + (Verb)3 + by + Subject
Active: He can take the paper.
Passive: The paper can be taken by him.
Active: They may sell the car.
Passive: The house may be sold by them.
Active: They might have seen us.
Passive: We might be seen by them.
Active: She may not accept our offer.
Passive: Our offer may not be accepted by her.
If the modal verb followed by “have” has or had the structure of the passive voice becomes.
Object + Modal verb + have+ been + (Verb)3 + by + Subject
Active: He should have told Ahmad.
Passive: Ahmad should have been told.
Active: She might have taken the lesson.
Passive: The lesson might have been taken by her.
Rules of Active and Passive Voice (Steps in making Passive Voice)
Step 1: Identify the SVO (i.e., subject, verb, and object) of a sentence that is in an active voice.
Step 2: Identify the tense of the active sentence because, like active sentences, passive sentences also have their particular structure.
Active Voice Structure: Subject + Verb + Object
Passive Voice Structure: Object + Verb “to be” + Main Verb (Past Participle) + Object
I know him.
Here in this sentence, “I” is the subject, “know” is the verb, and the pronoun “him” is the object.
This sentence is in the present simple tense. We formulate its passive by using the “verb be” as follows.
He is known to me. (Passive Voice) use be verb in passive voice.
Note: The form of the verb changed according to tense.
Step 3: The subject of a sentence in active voice becomes the object of a sentence in Passive Voice.
She loves me.