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Active Passive Voice: Rules for Conversion

The Active-Passive voice in the English language can be described as the most common way of expressing an action performed by a subject in relation to its object.

Active Passive Voice | English Medium

Active voice 

In active sentences, the person/thing who is doing the action is considered the subject of the sentence and the person/thing who is receiving the action is considered the object of the sentence.

For example: The professor teaches the students.

In the above sentence,

Subject- The professor

Verb- Teaches

Object- the students

Passive voice

In passive sentences, the person/thing who is receiving the action, which is ideally the object of the sentence is placed at the beginning, and the person/thing who is doing the action, which is ideally the subject in the sentence is placed at the end of the sentence.

For example: The students are taught by the teacher.

Object- The students (receiving the action)

Verb- are taught (past form of the verb)

Subject- the teacher (performing the action)

Rules for conversion

While converting a sentence which is in its active voice to its passive voice, the passive sentence, hence formed will face the following changes-

  1. The subject and object will be interchanged– It must be noted that in passive sentences, the subject and the object in passive voice are interchanged. The object (in normal sentences) becomes the subject in passive sentences, and the subject (in a normal sentence) becomes the object in active sentences.
  1. The preposition ‘by’ is used before the object– The object in a passive sentence will always be preceded by the preposition ‘by’. This is because the object in such sentences explains that the action is being performed by somebody
  1. The verb is changed to past participle (3rd form of the verb)- All the sentences in the passive voice witness a change in their tenses. As a rule, all the passive sentences are framed in the past tense. The verbs in these sentences, is thus conjugated in the past participle tense
  1. A new helping verb is added to the past particle form of the verb– The main verb in a passive sentence remains the same; however, since the object and the subject in the sentence interchange, there is need of a helping verb in the sentence

Changing Imperative sentences

Sentences which express request, order, advice, suggestion, prohibition etc. are called Imperative sentences. 

For negative sentences in the English language, the imperative sentences in their passive voice have the following structure:

Let + object + be + past participle.

For example : 

Active Voice: Bring it home.
Passive Voice: Let it be brought home.


For positive sentences in the English language, (when the active voice begins with do not) the sentences in their passive voice will have the following structure:

Let not + object + be + past participle 

For Example:

Active Voice: Do not beat the dog.
Passive Voice: Let the dog not be beaten.

In order to be able to use the active and passive voice in your written and spoken conversation, you should be able to understand the tenses and their relation with verbs. Sentence formation is one of the most important topics in the English grammar and it comes only when you can maintain the subject-verb agreement in a sentence. 

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