ACTIVE VOICE = When the person or the thing in the subject does something is called active voice; means the subject is in action.

PASSIVE VOICE = When something is done to the subject; means the person or the thing of the subject does not perform the action denoted by the verb is called passive voice.

Read these two sentences and compare

1. Ranjan writes a letter.
2. A letter is written by Ranjan.

Obviously the verb in the second sentence is ‘IS WRITTEN’. We see that the structure of the verb here is BE+V3. When such is the structure of the verb i.e. BE+V3 the sentence is said to be in the passive voice. Sometimes the structure of the passive verb is ‘GET+V3’. But GET+V3 construction is not normally used in standard English. All other verb forms except an exception or two are said to be in the active voice. So, the Hindi translation of the above two sentences is:

1. Ranjan writes a letter. (रंजन एक पत्र लिखता है.)
2. A letter is written by Ranjan. (रंजन द्वारा एक पत्र लिखा जाता है.)

NOTE: From the above we can say that verb forms ‘BE+V3’ or ‘GET+V3’ are in the passive voice and all other verb forms are in the active voice.

At times we have to change a sentence in the active voice into a sentence in the passive voice. Let’s see what changes are necessary.

1. The object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence, and the subject of the active sentence becomes the object of the preposition ‘BY’ or any other suitable preposition in the passive sentence; sometimes this object does not need to be mentioned in the passive.

2. The verb in the active becomes ‘BE+V3’.

3. The tense of the active sentence does not change at all. The tense of the verb in the active is denoted by an appropriate form of ‘BE’ only; V3 of the passive does not affect the tense form.

4. The type of sentence does not change; means it remains the same i.e. Assertive Sentence remains Assertive, Interrogative remains Interrogative and so on.

5. Future Continuous Tense and all Perfect Continuous Tenses i.e. Present/Past/Future Perfect Continuous Tenses cannot be converted into passive.


1. Renu loves Geeta. = Geeta is loved by Renu.
[You see Geeta is the object of the active sentence and the tense is present simple. In the passive, as said above, the object Geeta becomes the subject of the sentence in the passive, and the verb BE (here IS) is in the present simple tense.]

2. Rahul is writing a book. = A book is being written by Rahul.
[The verb in the active sentence is IS WRITING, means present continuous. In continuous tenses the continuous form of BE in the passive is BE+BEING; hence ‘Is being written’ here.]

3. The peon opened the gate. = The gate was opened by the peon.

4. Raju was eating a banana. = A banana was being eaten by Raju.

5. I shall play badminton in the evening. = Badminton will be played by me in the evening.

[The tense in the active, we see, is future simple; so we need future simple of BE, of course it is SHALL BE or WILL BE. But we use SHALL with the first person i.e. I or WE, here our subject is BADMINTON, so we need WILL BE.]

6. I have finished my homework. = My homework has been finished by me.

[The tense in the active is present perfect, so the present perfect of BE is needed. It will be HAS BEEN or HAVE BEEN. We use HAVE with I, WE or YOU, so HAS BEEN is required here.]

7. Little strokes fell great oaks. = Great oaks are felled with little strokes.

[The verb FELL is second form of the verb FALL and first form of the verb FELL itself. The verb FALL is an intransitive verb, means without having an object, whereas the verb FELL is a transitive verb, means having an object. Here the object GREAT OAKS is given, therefore it’s the first form, means the present simple tense. Note three forms of the two verbs here: ‘FALL FELL FALLEN’ and ‘FELL FELLED FELLED’]

8. The king reviewed the troops in the maidan. = The troops were reviewed by the King in the maidan.

9. The legend tells us how the city received its name. = We are told by the legend how the city received its name.

10. All desire wealth and some acquire it. = Wealth is desired by all and acquired by some.

[When the same subject is associated with two or more verbs (Here the subject WEALTH has two verbs DESIRE and ACQUIRE), we use the helping verb only with the first one, so IS won’t again be put before ACQUIRED.]

11. Alas! We shall hear her voice no more. = Alas! Her voice will be heard no more.

[The sentence in the active voice is EXCLAMATORY, so in the passive also it will remain EXCLAMATORY as type of a sentence remains the same in both the voices.]

12. Do not insult the poor. = Let the poor not be insulted.

2. Change of MODALS in the passive
If a sentence in the active voice has a modal, its passive is made by MODAL+BE+V3

1. Rohit must shut the door. = The door must be shut by Rohit.

2. Rani ought to have told him. = He ought to have been told by Rani.

3. You have to pay fifty-paise postage. = Fifty-paise postage has to be paid by you. [HAVE TO is a modal verb.]

3. When prepositions WITH, TO, IN, AT, etc are used instead of BY in the object of the passive:

A) We use a preposition other than BY when the subject of the active sentence is a person and its verb is not an action, rather it tells the state of mind or feeling or a situation; e.g

1. I know her. =She is known to me.
2. He annoys me. =I am annoyed with him.
3. She vexes me. = I am vexed at her.

NOTE: Verbs KNOW, ANNOY and VEX are not actions, rather they are states.

B) Also, we use a preposition other than BY when the subject of the active sentence is not a person; e.g.

1. Smoke filled the room. = The room was filled with smoke.
2. Paint covered the lock. = The lock was covered with paint.
3. The boy’s work pleased the teacher. = The teacher was pleased with the boy’s work.
4. His behavior annoyed me, = I was annoyed with his behavior.
5. The book has greatly interested me. = I have been greatly interested in this book.

NOTE: Different verbs take different prepositions. The verb ANNOY takes WITH when used for a person, and it takes AT when used for a thing. See some other verbs which preposition they take:

1. amazed at 2. decorated with 3. ornamented with 4. known to
5. contained in 6. astonished at 7. embodied in 8. startled at
9. vexed at 10. engulfed in 11. surprised at 12. covered with
13. filled with 14. thronged with 15. crammed with 16. included in
17. tired of

4. Active verbs which are passive in sense
You can categorise verbs in two ways, one that have active meaning, means the subject is in action, like in the sentence THE PEON OPENED THE GATE. In this sentence the subject of the sentence PEON himself opens the gate, so you can say the verb OPEN here has active meaning. But in the sentence THE SURFACE FEELS SMOOTH, the subject THE SURFACE is not FEELING anything, such verbs are said to have passive meaning. The passive voice of such verbs is formed like this:

1. The rose smells sweet. =The rose is sweet when it is smelt.

2. The grapes tasted sour. = The grapes were sour when they were tasted.

3. At least the play reads well. = At least the play affects the readers well when it is read.

4. This book reads easily. = This book can be read easily

5. The house is building. = The house is being built.

6. The meal is eating. = The meal is being eaten.

7. The drums are beating. = The drums are being beaten.

5. WHEN the subject of the active need not be mentioned in the passive?

1. When the doer of the action i.e. subject is obvious
2. When the subject in the active is vague like PEOPLE, ONE, SOMEONE, THEY, WE, etc.

1. The police arrested the thief. = The thief was arrested.

2. People suspect him of receiving stolen goods. = He is suspected of receiving stolen goods.

3. People suppose that they are living in Delhi. = They are supposed to be living in Delhi.

4. One sees this sort of advertisement everywhere. = This sort of advertisement is seen everywhere.

5. Someone picked my pocket in the bus. = My pocket was picked in the bus.

6. A Mr Rohan has bought the house next door. = The house next door has been bought.
[When the name of a person is preceded by ‘A’ it becomes vague, and therefore it’s not mentioned in the passive voice.]

7. Our state government is building a new public library. = A new public library is being built.

8. They sell TVs here. = TVs are sold here.
[THEY is not specific here, here THEY means shopkeepers of a particular place.]

9. They asked me my name. = I was asked my name. OR My name was asked.

10. They opened the theatre only last month. = The theatre was opened only last month.

11. We will execute all orders promptly. = All orders will be executed promptly.

12. One should keep one’s promises. = Promises should be kept.

13. We expect good news. = Good news is expected.

14. Circumstances will oblige me to go. = I shall be obliged to go.

15. The rules forbid passengers to cross the railway line. = Passengers are forbidden to cross the railway line.

NOTE: Subjects YOU, WE, THEY can both be specific persons, or people in general. Therefore it depends on the meaning these words have in the sentences. That meaning will decide whether or not they should be used in the passive.

Sometimes possessive adjective (my, our, your, his, her, their, its, one’s) of the subject is mentioned in the object of the active voice, while converting such a sentence into the passive, we remove that possessive adjective and replace it with the article THE, though THE sometimes is not necessary; e.g.

1. We had already taken our meals. = The meals had already been taken by us.

2. One must do one’s duty. = Duty must be done

Verbs that take two objects in the active voice, can be changed into passive with either of the objects as subject of the passive. But if the object denoting a person is not made the subject of the passive, a suitable preposition like TO, FOR, etc is put before it.

1. The guard refused him admittance. =He was refused admittance by the guard. OR Admittance was refused to him by the guard.

2. I bought my son a pen. = My son was bought a pen. OR A pen was bought for my son.

3. He promised me a gift. = I was promised a gift. OR A gift was promised to me.

4. You could give it to me. = I could be given it by you. OR It could be given to me by you.

NOTE: But when the two objects are the same person we can form only one passive; that too with the person as subject only; e.g.

1. They made him king. = He was made king.
[Here HIM and KING are representing the same person.]

2. We elected Hari captain. Hari was elected captain.
[Here HARI and CAPTAIN are representing the same person.]

8. Verb + Preposition
When VERB+PREPOSITION is there in the active, the preposition remains immediately after the verb in the passive also; e.g.

1. You can play with these cubs quite safely. = These cubs can be played with quite safely.

2. We must write to him. = He must be written to.

3. They threw away the old newspapers. = The old newspapers were thrown away.

4. They looked after the children well. = The children were well looked after.

5. They laughed at the warnings and objected to = His warnings were laughed at and all his proposals all his proposals. objected to.

6. You can never hear of a happy millionaire. = A happy millionaire can never be heard of.

If the sentence in the active voice begins with a helping verb, the passive sentence also begins with a helping verb. If the sentence in the active voice begins with a WH family word, the passive sentence also begins with a WH family word.

1. Who did this? = By whom was this done?

[In an interrogative sentence beginning with WHO the subject is always WHO itself. In the above sentence THIS is the object; therefore THIS will become the subject of the passive. As we need a question in the passive also, the helping verb should come before the subject and the main verb after it. So the helping verb WAS will come before THIS and the main verb DONE after. As WHO is the subject of the active, it will become the object of the passive, the objective case of WHO is WHOM; also the preposition BY precedes the object in the passive, so it will be BY WHOM. As it’s a WH word question in the active, in passive also WH word is needed. Therefore the passive sentence will begin with BY WHOM.]

2. Whom have you invited? = Who has been invited by you?

[In an interrogative sentence beginning with WHOM the object is always WHOM itself and the subject is always the word given between the helping verb and the main verb, means YOU is the subject of this sentence. Therefore subjective form of WHOM will become the subject of the passive. Subjective form of WHOM is WHO, so WHO will be the subject of the passive.]

3. Who teaches you Mathematics? = By whom are you taught Mathematics? OR By whom is Mathematics taught to you?

4. Who taught you such tricks as these? = By whom were you taught such tricks as these? OR By whom were such tricks as these taught to you?

5. Why did your brother write such a letter? = Why was such a letter written by your brother?

6. When will you return my camera? =When will my camera be returned?

7. Shall I ever forget those happy days? =Will those happy days ever be forgot/forgotten?

8. Do you understand my meaning? = Is my meaning understood?

9. What did they stole? = What was stolen?

10. What makes these holes? = By what are these holes made?

11. How else would you learn it? = How else would it be learnt by you?

[IMPORTANT: When an interrogative pronoun such as WHO, WHAT, WHICH, etc. is the subject of a sentence and it needs a preposition in the passive, we put the preposition before it, not to the end of the sentence. The preposition in such a case is often taken to the end of the sentence, but it happens only in the informal English. Therefore it’s wrong to say ‘Who are you taught by?’. The correct sentence is ‘By whom are you taught?’]

10. Passive of Imperative Sentences

A) Orders/Instructions/warnings

1. Do it at once.
= You are ordered to do it once.
= You are asked to do it once.
= You are told to do it once.
= Let it be done at once.

2. Bring a glass of water.
= You are ordered to bring a glass of water.
= You are asked to bring a glass of water.
= You are told to bring a glass of water.
= Let a glass of water be brought.

NOTE-I: When the active voice is in the negative, the passive voice with LET is formed in the form of: Let + object + not + be + v3; e.g.

1. Do not beat the dog.
= Let the dog not be beaten.
= You are ordered not to beat the dog.
= You are asked not to beat the dog.
= You are told not to beat the dog.

2. Don’t touch it.
= Let it not be touched.
= You are warned not to touch it.

NOTE-II: When the object of the verb is not mentioned, we begin the passive form with YOU, not LET; e.g.

1. Work hard. = You are advised to work hard.
2. Get out. = You are ordered to get out.

NOTE-III: In one of the meanings both ASK and TELL = to order or instruct somebody to do something. In this meaning both of them must be followed by an object + to-infinitive. In the passive as the object becomes the subject, so it’s not used immediately after ASK or TELL.

B) Requests

1. Save my life, please. = You are requested to save my life.

2. Kindly vacate the house. = You are requested to vacate the house. [To use KINDLY REQUESTED is incorrect.]

3. Do it for me, please. = You are requested to do it for me. [To use KINDLY REQUESTED is incorrect.]

C) Advice

1. Help the needy people. = You are advised to help the needy people. OR The needy people should be helped.

[This is advice, not an order, so you can’t use TELL, ASK, ORDER in the passive here.]

2. Love the poor. = You are advised to love the poor. OR The poor should be loved.

3. Hate the seven deadly sins. = The seven deadly sins should be hated.


For complete chapter on Active & Passive Voice read this book:

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Maha Gupta

Maha Gupta

Founder of SSCEXAMFORUM.COM and guiding aspirants on SSC exam affairs since 2010 when objective pattern of exams was introduced first in SSC.

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