Passive Voice The passive voice (Lead-in) Active vs Passive (use) Reasons for using the passive voice Other reasons for using the passive voice How to build a passive sentence Golden rules for the passive
The Passive Voice (Lead-in) Read the following sentences: • ICYE offers volunteers a wide choice of placements. • Volunteers are encouraged by ICYE to get involved in the host community. Answer these questions. In which sentence… • is ICYE the main issue? • are the volunteers the main issue? • is the subject the doer of the action? • is the subject the receiver of the action? • does the subject feel the effects of the action?
Active vs Passive (use) • When the focus is on who does the action (the agent), the sentence is ACTIVE. • When the focus is on what is done (the action), the sentence is PASSIVE.
Reasons for using the passive The poor Indian communities will be provided with help by ICYE. • We choose between active and passive structures because of the topic we are talking about and the emphasis we want to put on it, especially when reporting information. Look at the following example: If ICYE issues a newsletter to report on a new voluntary project in India, assuming its readers are interested in joining it, that would make it the topic and it would most likely be reported like this: ICYE will provide help to the poor Indian communities. ACTIVE On the other hand, a local Indian newspaper would be more interested in what is happening in its own country, and would make that the main topic, most likely reporting the information like this: PASSIVE
Other reasons for using the passive • The agent is unknown or obvious: • “Volunteers are encouraged to live and participate in the community.” • (The agent is obviously ICYE.) • The agent is ‘people or things in general’: • “An application form can be filled in online.”(The agent is people in general) • Avoiding references to ourselves and making a statement impersonal: • “A foreign language can’t possibly be learnt overnight.” • Avoiding ‘you’ in orders and rules: • “Application forms must be given in before the end of the week.” • In factual writing when the focus is usually on events, achievements, etc., rather than agents: • “Volunteering is becoming a well-known activity all over the world.”
NOTE In most passive sentences we have no interest in who or what performs the action. We are interested in the action itself, who or what is affected by the action or in its result .
How to build a passive sentence support volunteers ICYE Active Structure S V O supported Volunteers are by ICYE Passive Structure Agent S Aux. V Main V
The object of the active structure becomes the subject of the passive structure. support volunteers ICYE Active Structure (S) (V) (O) Passive Structure Volunteers (S)
The subject of the active structure becomes the agent of the passive structure after by(ONLY IF IT ADDS IMPORTANT INFORMATION). support volunteers ICYE Active Structure (S) (V) (O) Volunteers by ICYE Passive Structure (S) (Agent)
The auxiliary verb (to be) is used in the passive structure and always comes in the same verb form in which the main verb appears in the active structure. support volunteers ICYE Active Structure (S) (V) (O) Volunteers are by ICYE Passive Structure (S) (Aux. V.) (Agent)
The main verb of the active structure always comes in the Past Participle in the passive structure. support volunteers ICYE Active Structure (V) Volunteers are by ICYE supported Passive Structure Main v.