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Overview: Active Voice & Passive Voice | Basic English Grammar for Competitive Exams - Bank Exams PDF Download

Introduction of Active Voice and Passive Voice

Active voice is the term for a verb whose subject performs the action of the verb.

For example:

  • John painted the fence.

(In this example, "painted" is a verb in the active voice because the subject of "painted" ("John") is performing the action, i.e., did the painting. So, this is an example of an active sentence with a verb in the active voice.)

The term "passive voice" describes a verb whose action is done to the subject not by the subject.

For example:

  • The sheriff was shot.

(This is an example of the passive voice. The subject of the verb is "the sheriff." The action of the verb ("to shoot") is done to the subject.)

  • Identify the subject, verb, and object in the active voice sentence: In an active voice sentence, the subject is the doer of the action, the verb is the action, and the object is the receiver of the action. For example, in the sentence "John ate the apple," John is the subject, ate is the verb, and the apple is the object.
  • Change the object into the subject: In the passive voice, the object of the active voice sentence becomes the subject. For example, "The apple" becomes the subject in the passive voice sentence.
  • Change the verb into the passive form: To change the verb into the passive form, use the appropriate form of the verb "to be" (am, is, are, was, were, be, been, or being) followed by the past participle of the main verb. In our example, "ate" becomes "was eaten."
  • Add the preposition "by" followed by the original subject: After changing the verb into the passive form, add the preposition "by" followed by the original subject to complete the passive voice sentence. In our example, the passive voice sentence becomes "The apple was eaten by John."
  • Adjust the tense if necessary: If the active voice sentence is in a tense other than the simple present or past, you may need to adjust the tense of the verb "to be" in the passive voice sentence to match the original tense. For example, if the active voice sentence is "John will eat the apple," the passive voice sentence becomes "The apple will be eaten by John."
  • Consider context and meaning: Sometimes, the passive voice can make a sentence sound awkward or unclear. If this is the case, consider whether the passive voice is the best choice for conveying your intended meaning. It's also important to remember that not all sentences can be converted into the passive voice, such as sentences with intransitive verbs (verbs that do not have an object).
  • Maintain agreement between the subject and verb: In both active and passive voice sentences, the subject and verb must agree in number (singular or plural). Make sure to adjust the verb "to be" in the passive voice sentence if necessary to maintain subject-verb agreement.
  • Keep auxiliary verbs and modals: If the active voice sentence contains auxiliary verbs or modals (e.g., can, may, must, should), these should be retained in the passive voice sentence. For example, if the active voice sentence is "John should eat the apple," the passive voice sentence becomes "The apple should be eaten by John."
  • Retain adverbs and other sentence elements: If the active voice sentence contains adverbs or other sentence elements, these should be retained in the passive voice sentence, although their position might need to be adjusted. For example, if the active voice sentence is "John quickly ate the apple," the passive voice sentence becomes "The apple was quickly eaten by John."
  • Use common sense and context: When converting between active and passive voice, use common sense and context to ensure that the passive voice sentence retains the original meaning and intent of the active voice sentence.

Solved Exercise

Exercise 1: Convert the following sentences from Active Voice to Passive Voice.
Active: John is painting the room.
Passive: The room is being painted by John.

The object (the room) becomes the subject in the passive sentence, and the subject (John) becomes the agent introduced by the preposition "by."

Active: They will finish the project in a week.
Passive: The project will be finished in a week.

The object (the project) becomes the subject, and "will finish" changes to "will be finished." In this case, we don't need to include the agent (they) in the passive sentence since it's not necessary information.

Active: She cooks dinner every night.
Passive: Dinner is cooked by her every night.

The object (dinner) becomes the subject, and "cooks" changes to "is cooked." The subject (she) becomes the agent after "by."

Exercise 2: Convert the following sentences from Passive Voice to Active Voice.
Passive: The car was washed by Tom.
Active: Tom washed the car.

The agent (Tom) becomes the subject in the active sentence, and the subject (the car) becomes the object. "Was washed" changes to "washed."

Passive: The windows are being cleaned by the workers.
Active: The workers are cleaning the windows.

The agent (the workers) becomes the subject, and "are being cleaned" changes to "are cleaning." The subject (the windows) becomes the object.

Passive: The letter was sent by Sarah.
Active: Sarah sent the letter.

The agent (Sarah) becomes the subject in the active sentence, and the subject (the letter) becomes the object. "Was sent" changes to "sent."

Exercise 3: Identify whether the following sentences are in Active Voice or Passive Voice.
The book was read by the students.

Passive Voice
The subject (the book) is the receiver of the action, not the doer.

The teacher helps the students.

Active Voice
The subject (the teacher) is performing the action (helps) on the object (the students).

The cake was baked in the oven.

Passive Voice
The subject (the cake) is the receiver of the action, and the doer of the action is not mentioned in the sentence.

They are painting the house.

Active Voice
The subject (they) is performing the action (painting) on the object (the house).

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