Passive Voice: rules and examples
It is not always known who is doing the action, and sometimes it doesn’t need to be stated at all. It is in these cases that the Passive Voice is used. In this article, we’ll look at when and how to use it.
How the passive voice is formed in English
The voice form, active or passive, determines whether the subject is the action object or whether it produces the action itself. If it is active, the subject performs the action. In the Passive Voice, the subject is experiencing the action.
I water the flowers every day. — Я поливаю цветы каждый день (активный залог, «Я» выполняет действие).
Flowers are watered every day. — Цветы поливаются каждый день (passive voice, «цветы» — the subject and the action is performed on them, the producer of the action is unknown, what is important is that the flowers are watered).
To form the Passive Voice in English, you have to use a formula:
to be в нужном времени, числе и лице + Participle II смыслового глагола (V3/V-ed).
My bag has been stolen. — Мою сумку украли.
To put the passive voice in the negative form, add the particle not after the auxiliary verb. If the auxiliary verb several parts consists, put the not after the first.
My bag has not been stolen. — Мою сумку не украли.
When composing a Passive Voice question sentence, the auxiliary verb (or its first part) should be placed at the sentence beginning, before the subject.
Has your wallet been stolen? — Вашу сумку украли?
Passive Voice tenses
For reference ease, we have combined all the ways in which the Passive Voice is formed in the different tenses into one table. Remember: in the Perfect Continuous and Future Continuous groups, the passive voice is not used.
|Time||Rules for use||The formation formula||Usage example|
|Present Simple||Action happens regularly||is/am/are + V3||The vase is broken. — Ваза разбита.|
|Past Simple||The action took place in the past||was/were + V3||The vase was broken yesterday. — Вазу разбили вчера.|
|Future Simple||Action happens in the future||will be + V3||The vase will be broken tomorrow. — Ваза будет разбита завтра.|
|Present Continuous||The action is now happening||am/is/are + being + V3||The letter is being written right now. — Письмо пишут прямо сейчас.|
|Past Continuous||Action happened at some point in the past||was/were + being + V3||The letter was being written when I entered the room. — Письмо писали, когда я вошел в комнату.|
|Present Perfect||Action occurred recently, result is important||has/have + been + V3||The vase has been broken this morning. — Вазу разбили сегодня утром.|
|Past Perfect||Action took place before specific point in the past or before another action||had + been + V3||The vase had been broken before I came home. — Вазу разбили до того, как я пришел домой.|
|Future Perfect||Action will end at some point in the future||will + have + been + V3||The letter will have been written tomorrow by 5 o’clock. — Письмо будет написано завтра к 5 часам.|
How to translate sentences in Passive Voice
A verb in the passive voice can be translated in several ways:
- The verb is the verb a combination to be and the participle short form (not used in the present tense in Russian);
The flowers have been watered today. — Цветы были политы сегодня.
- with a verb ending in -s/-;
Letters are sent every day. — Письма отправляются каждый день.
- with a 3rd person verb in the active voice as an indefinite-personal sentence part.
The table was repaired yesterday. — Стол починили вчера.
A passive voice sentence may contain a complement with the preposition by or with. In Russian, it is translated as the adjective in the instrumental case without the preposition. The word “by” is used to describe the person who is acting and “with” is used to describe the action instrument.
The letter was sent by an unknown person. — Письмо было отправлено неизвестным (возможен вариант перевода «Письмо отправил неизвестный»).
The table was repaired with my tools. — Стол починили моими инструментами.
The Passive Voice cases usage
The active voice is more common in English, but there are cases where the passive voice is not only appropriate, but also the only correct option.
- When it is the action itself or the object on which it is performed that matters first. And the one who performs the act is unimportant or unknown.
My favourite vase is broken. — Моя любимая ваза разбита (it doesn’t matter who did it, the vase is gone – it matters).
- When you are talking about well-known facts, ideas or opinions.
Leonardo da Vinci is known all over the world. — Леонардо да Винчи известен по всему миру.
- In news texts when describing activities, in headlines, advertisements.
15% discount will be given to the first five buyers. — Скидку 15 % получат первые пять покупателей.
- When you describe a meal preparation.
The onion is finely chopped, fried and added to the meat. — Лук мелко нарезается, обжаривается и добавляется к мясу.
- When you want to talk about some unpleasant event without identifying the perpetrator, or when you pass on information about a crime for which the perpetrator is unknown.
The bank was robbed yesterday. The police are looking for the crime author. — Вчера ограбили банк. Полиция ищет виновника.
- With some verbs, the Passive Voice can only be used in certain cases: a personal or impersonal passive construction. It expresses some well-established opinion or known fact. These are verbs such as to think (думать), to say (говорить), to believe (полагать), to feel (чувствовать), to expect (ожидать), to hope (надеяться).
It is said that she no longer meets John. — Говорят, что она больше не встречается с Джоном (impersonal construction).
He was expected to do well on the exam. — Ожидалось, что он хорошо сдаст экзамен (personal construction).
When someone performs an action us instead or for us.
In such a case, the following construction is used:
подлежащее + have + дополнение + V3
I had my hair cut yesterday. — Я вчера подстригла волосы (мне вчера подстригли волосы, я это сделала не сама, а в парикмахерской).
We hope our article was useful for you. We invite you to take our English courses for adults at our school to start learning English or to improve your knowledge. Take an English level test on our website and sign up for a free trial lesson of English online. With EnglishPapa, you will definitely begin to speak English!