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Active and Passive Voice—Part I

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What is the difference between Active Voice and Passive Voice?

Before answering the question, let's study the sentences both in column ‘A' and Column ‘B':

Column ‘A' Column ‘B'

1. Satish helps her. She is helped by Satish.
2. Meena is reading a book. A book is being read by Mena.
3. My friend called you. You were called by my friend.
4. I have seen the movie. The movie has been seen by me.
5. Sohan was playing football. Football was being played by Sohan.

We can see that a sentence can be written in two different ways i.e. (i) by giving preference to the subject and (ii) by giving preference to the object. In the sentences in column ‘A' we are emphasising on the subject while in column ‘B' the emphasis is on the object. The sentences in column ‘A' are said to be in the Active Voice while the sentences in column ‘B' are in the Passive Voice.

Thus we can define Active and Passive Voice as follows:

Active Voice

When the subject of a sentence does something, the sentence is said to be in the Active Voice. In the other way, we can say that in Active Voice, the subject is prominent.

Examples: She cooked rice.
They are plucking flowers.
We have done our homework.

Passive Voice

When something is done by the subject, the sentence is said to be in the Passive Voice. . In Passive Voice, the object is prominent

Examples: Rice was cooked by her.
Flowers were being plucked by them.
Our homework was done by us.


• In Active Voice, the subject is dominant while in the Passive Voice,
the object or thing acted upon is dominant.
• Only sentences with a Transitive Verb can be changed into Passive .
Voice Sentences with an Intransitive Verb cannot be changed into
Passive Voice.

When to Use Active Voice and When Passive Voice?

While speaking we need to use both types of voices. It is entirely depends on the situation as well on the speaker which voice is to be used. Take the following examples:

She ate a mango. (Active Voice)
A mango was eaten by her. (Passive Voice)

Which version would you prefer? Obviously, the first one is more common.

Now take another example.

The police arrested him. (Active Voice)
He was arrested (Passive Voice)

Do we need to mention about the police? Everybody knows that it is the police who arrest someone. Therefore, the second one is preferable.

Rules for changing Active Voice into Passive Voice;

Generally, we follow the following rules while changing a sentence from Active Voice to Passive Voice:

• Change the Subject of the sentence into Object.
• Add ‘by' before the new Object.
• Change the Object of the sentence into Subject.
• Change the Verb of the sentence according as explained below.

Change of Personal Pronouns for making Passive Voice:

If the subject or the object of a sentence is a personal pronoun, change it according to the table given below:

Subject Object Subject
I by me I
We by us we
You by you You
He by him He
She by her She
They by them They

Study the following examples to understand the changes:

1. I called him. He was called by me.
2. You called her. She was called by you.
3. You helped me. I was helped by you.
2. They helped us. We were helped by them.
3. We chased him. He was chased by us.

Change In Verb of a sentence

Try to find out the tense of the sentence and change the same according to the following table:
Let's take the verb ‘to help' as base.

Active Passive
Simple Present help/helps is/are/am helped
Simple Past helped was/were helped
Simple Future shall/will help shall be/will be helped
Present Continuous is/am/are helping is/am/are being helped
Past Continuous was/were helping was/were being helped
Present Perfect has/have helped has/have been helped
Past Perfect had helped had been helped
Future Perfect shall have/will have helped shall have been/will have
been helped


•In Passive Voice, the main Verb is always changed into Past Participle Form.
If there is any helping verb in the sentence, the same is changed according to the new subject.

Example: I am writing a letter. (The subject is first person, singular number. So ‘am' is used)
A letter is being written by me. (The new subject is third person, singular number. So ‘is' is used)

•Sentences in the following tenses cannot be changed into Passive Voice.

Future Continuous Tense
Present Perfect Continuous Tense
Past Perfect Continuous Tense
Future Perfect Continuous Tense

So far, we have discussed only about Assertive Sentences (Statements). In the second part of this topic, we will discuss about some more types of sentences and some other aspects of Active and Passive Voice

Sample Usage

As given against each part.

Next Resource: Subject-Verb Concord
Previous Resource: Rules of using Adjectives

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