The passive voice is used when the person who does the action (the subject) is not known, or when we want to emphasise a situation from a different perspective.
- “Penguins attacked my sister“ is active, because the subject (penguins) uses the verb (attacked) directly.
- “My sister was attacked“ is passive, because the subject (my sister) receives the verb (was attacked), and does not do the action.
Every passive sentence needs two things – the verb to be, and the main action in the past participle form. In our example we have *was” and “attacked“.
The verb to be in the example is in the past simple, which means that the sentence *my sister was attacked by wild penguins” is the past simple passive. The tense of the verb to be is the tense of our passive sentence.
Examples showing the Present and Past Simple and Continuous tenses in Affirmative, Negative and Question forms.
|Present Simple Affirmative||I write a letter||A letter is written (by me)|
|Present Simple Negative||I don’t write a letter||A letter wasn’t written (by me)|
|Present Simple Question||Do you write a letter?||Is a letter written by you?|
|Present Continuous Affirmative||I am writing a letter||A letter is being written|
|Present Continuous Negative||I am not writing a letter||A letter is not being written|
|Present Continuous Question||Are you writing a letter?||Is a letter being written?|
|Past Simple Affirmative||I wrote a letter||A letter was written|
|Past Simple Negative||I didn’t write a letter||A letter wasn’t written|
|Past Simple Question||Did you write a letter?||Was a letter written?|
|Past Continuous Affirmative||I was writing a letter||A letter was being written|
|Past Continuous Negative||I wasn’t writing a letter||A letter wasn’t being written|
|Past Continuous Question||Were you writing a letter?||Was a letter being written?|
Some other examples to think about. Do you know these tenses? Can you make active sentences using these tenses and then make them passive?
|He has told that story many times||That story has been told many times|
|He has been telling the same story for years||That story has been being told by him for years|
|He had told them before they left.||They had been told before they left.|
|He had been telling them for years.||They had been being told for years.|
|She will do it.||It will be done (by her)|
|They are going to do it||It is going to be done (by them)|
|They will have done it||It will have been done (by them)|
|They will have been doing it||It will have been being done (by them)|