Active & Passive Voice

Active & Passive Voice

Like direct/indirect speech questions, this question type also has a set of rules to follow when solving. Typically,a sentence is given either in active or passive voice, and the student is given four or five options and asked to choose the one that best converts it into the form other than the one in which it is given.

Active voice is the most common way of expressing in the English language. These sentences containa subject that performs the action,denoted by the verb. The standard format is: The man carried the books upstairs. Note that the ‘man’ here is the subject of the verb,who is performing the action of carrying the books (carried is the verb), while the object of the verb here is ‘books’ (the action is being performed on the books).

The same sentence can also be expressed in passive voice. The standard format would be: The books were carried upstairs by the man. In this sentence, the subject of the verb (man) is no longer active; and is instead being acted upon by the verb (carried), while the object of the verb (books) become the active part of the sentence.

Keep in mind that only sentences with a direct object can be changed from the active to the passive voice. For instance, the following sentence cannot be changed into passive voice as it does not have a direct object: A strong wind is blowing.

Rules for Solving

1. For changing a sentence in the active voice to passive voice, move the object of the verb to the subject’s slot. In most cases,the converted sentence in passive voice will beginwith the object of the sentence.

An active voice sentence usually has the following structure:

subject + first form of the verb + object.

A passive voice sentence has the following structure:

Object + is/am/are + past participle form of the verb + by + subject.

2. Pronouns: Subjective pronouns are changed into objective pronouns when changing a sentence from active to passive voice,and vice versa.

3. Tenses: Like direct/indirect speech questions, the tense of the sentence changes when converting from one voice to the other. It is imperative for the student to keep the rules in mind, as it is this in this area where most students make mistakes. The tense-wise rules are illustrated in the table below: