We can start a sentence either with the subject or the object. Thus it will decide whether a sentence is active or passive. We probably have been taught at school that we should write in the active voice or that we should write an active voice. In some way, active sentence is more desirable than passive sentence. Well, that is not always correct. Whether we choose to write in the active voice or the passive voice entirely depends on what we choose to emphasize in the sentence we write. The passive voice is more desirable than the active voice in certain situations. The trick is in deciding what those situations are.
It is possible for us to recognize the active and the passive voice. For example one of the passive voice characteristic is when the sentence has one of helping verbs such as am, is, are, be (in this paper, we would only discuss active and passive voice for present continuous tense) and past participles of the verb like eaten, broken, learnt, discovered.
Voice: Voice is simply a form we have given to a grammatical choice we can make which indicates whether a person or a thing does something or something has been done to a person or a thing.
1. Active Voice
When the subject of a verb performs an action the verb is said to be in the active voice. The effect of the action may or may not fall on an object, that is, the verb may or may not have an object.
Example: Rama is making a kite.
The girl cries.
In the first sentence, ‘making’ is the verb or the action; ‘Rama’ is the subject or the doer who performs the action; and ‘a kite’ is the object on whom the effect of that action directed.
In the second sentence, ‘cries’ is the verb or the action; the ‘girl’ is the subject or the doer of that action. There is no object because the effect of the girl’s crying cannot be directed at another object.
2. Passive Voice
When the object of a verb appears to perform an action so that the effect of that action appears to fall on the subject the verb is said to be in the passive voice.
Example: The play was written by Shakespeare.
That report is being prepared by Alex.
- A sentence in the active voice can be converted to form a sentence in the passive voice.
Example: A film is being watched by us.
A kite was flown by me
Rules for changing voice:
- Only sentences containing transitive verbs can be changed from the active voice to the passive voice. A subject- that is a ‘doer’ of the action- is required to change a sentence from the passive to the active voice.
Example: The secretary is copying some letters.
Some letters are being copied by the secretary.
Here, the object ‘letters’ are acted by the doer ‘secretary’.
- For the Present Continuous Tense, change is, am, are with being followed by a participle, to form the passive voice.
Active voice: Somebody is cleaning the room at the moment.
Passive voice: The room is being cleaned at the moment.
Passive voice (in a shop): ‘Can I help you, madam?’ ‘No, thank you. I am being served.
Using the passive voice:
- The passive voice usually is used without a by-phrase. The passive is most frequently used when it is not known or not important to know exactly who performs an action.
Example: The building is being renovated.
- When the verb in the active voice takes two objects, it is more usual in English to make the PERSONAL object the subject of the passive voice.
Example: Mom is making me my birthday cake (Active)
I am being made my birthday cake (Passive)
- In the passive voice it is more usual to put an adverb of manner immediately in front of the past participle it qualifies: e.g. The lesson is being hard learnt by him.
- Sometimes, even when the speaker knows who performs an action, we choose to use the passive with the by-phrase because we want to focus attention on the subject of a sentence.
Example: The rug is being made by my aunt. The focus of attention is on that rug.
- SBY and Budiyono are visiting the embassy of Indonesia in USA.
- Embassy of Indonesia in USA was visited by SBY and Budiyono.
- Embassy of Indonesia in USA is being visited by SBY and Budiyono.
- Embassy of Indonesia in USA has been visited by SBY and Budiyono.
- Embassy of Indonesia in USA will be visited by SBY and Budiyono.
- Some students are arranging a reunion party in the class room.
- A reunion party is being arranged by some students in the class room.
- A reunion party had been arranged by some students in the class room.
- A reunion party is arranged by some students in the class room.
- A reunion party will had been arranged by some students in the class room.
- Neither James nor Jenny is telling the truth.
- Truth isn’t being told either by James or Jenny.
- Truth isn’t told either by James or Jenny.
- Truth was told neither by James nor Jenny.
- Truth isn’t being told neither by James nor Jenny.
- The plant _____________ by Tania.
- Is watered
- Was watered
- Is being watered
- Was being watered
- The boy _________________ by her.
- Is helped
- Isn’t helped
- Isn’t helping
- Is being helped
- The farmer’s wagon _____________________by the two horses.
- Is pulled
- Was pulled
- Is being pulled
- Was being pulled
- Customers _____________________ by waitresses and waiters.
- Will be served
- Is being served
- Have been served
- Is going to be served
- The letter is being written by Jim.
- Jim was writing the letter
- Jim will write the letter
- Jim writes the letter
- Jim is writing the letter
- The assignments are being collecting by teacher.
- Teacher had collected the assignments
- Teacher is collecting the assignments
- Teacher is being collected by the assignment
- Teacher had been collecting the assignments
- The contract is being signed by Mr. Thomas.
- Mr. Thomas signing the contract
- Mr. Thomas has been signing the contract
- Mr. Thomas will have signing the contract
- Mr. Thomas is signing the contract
Allen, W Stannard. 1973. Living English Structure. 5th ed. London: Longman.
Azar, Betty Schrampfer. 1941. Fundamentals of English Grammar. 2nd ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Azar, Betty Schrampfer. 1998. Understanding and Using English Grammar. 3rd Ed. __________: Longman.
Murphy, Raymond. 1998. English Grammar in Use: A reference and practice book for intermediate students. 2nd ed. Scotland: Cambridge University Press.
Murthy, Jayanthi Dakshina. 2003. Contemporary English Grammar: Reference and Prastice Throught Real English. New Delhi: Book Palace.
Wren & Martin. 1990. High School English Grammar & Composition. Latest Edition. ___________:___________