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Lesson 5.1

The Passive Voice

La voz pasiva
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So far in this course, we have spoken only of the active voice, where the action of the verb is focused on the subject. When we want to give more importance to the action, rather than the subject, we use what is known as the passive voice.


Active Voice

 He ate all of the cookies.

Passive Voice

 All of the cookies were eaten

Grammatical Rules

The passive is formed using the auxiliary verb “to be” and the past participle of the principal verb.

Subject + auxiliary verb (to be) + past participle….


 The speech is written for the president.
 The house was built in 1975.
 My wallet has been stolen.
 The room will be cleaned while we are out.

To change the sentence from an active one to a passive one, there are several points to keep in mind:

1. The object of an active voice sentence becomes the subject of the sentence in the passive.

2. The principal verb in the active voice is substituted by the auxiliary verb “to be”, in the same verb tense, and the verb is then in the past participle form.

3. The subject in the active voice becomes the complement in the passive.

4. If in the passive we mention the subject who completed the action (subject agent), this subject is normally introduced in the passive with the preposition “by”.


Active Voice:

 Mark Twain wrote the book.

Passive Voice:

 The book was written by Mark Twain.

Active Voice:

 The housekeeper will clean the room.

Passive Voice:

 The room will be cleaned by the housekeeper.


1. We use the passive voice when we do not know who completed the action.


 A civilian has been killed.
 The car was stolen.

2. We use the active voice when we want to give more importance to the action and not who completed the action or when we don’t want to say who completed the action.


 The letter was delivered yesterday.
 A mistake was made.

Note: We cannot use the passive voice with intransitive verbs such as “die”, “arrive” or “go” because these verbs are not used with direct objects.

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