Compare the two sentences given below.
John helped me.
I was helped by John.
Both sentences have the same meaning, but the constructions are different. In the sentence ‘John helped me’, John (subject) is the doer of the action. He does something – he helps. Here the verb helps says what the subject (John) does.
A verb which expresses the action done by the subject is said to be in the active voice.
In the sentence ‘I was helped by John’, the subject I is the receiver of the action. Something is done to me – I am helped.
A verb which expresses what is done to the subject is said to be in the passive voice.
He loves me. (Active Voice)
I am loved by him. (Passive Voice)
He killed the spider. (Active Voice)
The spider was killed by him. (Passive Voice)
I will buy a shirt. (Active Voice)
A shirt will be bought by me. (Passive Voice)
Sam broke the window. (Active voice)
The window was broken by Sam. (Passive voice)
People speak English. (Active voice)
English is spoken by people. (Passive voice)
I know the answer. (Active voice)
The answer is known to me. (Passive voice)
They took the child to hospital. (Active voice)
The child was taken to hospital. (Passive voice)
Active and passive voice exercise
Sentences are given in the active voice. Change them into the passive voice.
1. The starving man stole a piece of bread.
2. She taught me a lesson.
3. They praised the boy.
4. She has won the first prize.
5. I was reading a novel.
1. A piece of bread was stolen by the starving man.
2. I was taught a lesson (by her).
3. The boy was praised by them.
4. The first prize was won by her.
5. A novel was being read by me.
Changing the Active verb into the Passive
When a sentence in the active voice is converted to the passive voice, the following changes occur:
1. The object of the active verb becomes the subject of the passive verb.
Alice invited John. (Active voice: subject – Alice; active verb – helped; object – John)
John was invited by Alice. (Passive Voice: subject – John; passive verb – was invited; object – Alice)
2. The verb changes its form according to the number and person of the subject.
I have written a novel. (Subject – I; verb – have written)
A novel has been written by me. (Subject – a novel; verb – has been written)
3. The subject of the verb in the active voice becomes the object of the verb in the passive voice. This object is usually introduced with a preposition like by.
They built this house in 1990.
This house was built by them in 1990.
4. The active verb changes its form to become the passive verb.
I am writing a letter. (Active verb – am writing)
A letter is being written by me. (Passive verb – is being written)
When the active verb has two objects
If the active verb has two objects, either of them can become the subject of the passive verb.
Arun will give you a present. (Active Voice)
You will be given a present by Arun. (Passive voice – indirect object becomes subject.)
A present will be given to you by Arun. (Passive voice – direct object becomes subject.)