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14 Voice. The Passive Voice


  1. The Definition of the Voice
  2. The Formation of the PV
  3. Uses of the PV
  4. Verbs that are used in the PV: a) transitive b) ditransitive c) phrasal d) The PV of the Verbals. Modal verbs + the PV Infinitive e) Be + participle II
  5. Peculiar uses of the PV

Voice is a grammatical category of the verb denoting the relationship between the action expressed by the verb and the person /non-person denoted by the subject of the sentence (construction).



The PV is used to show that the subject of the sentence is not the agent (doer) of the action expressed by the verb but, quite conversely, is acted upon, undergoes the action.

The PV is formed by means of the auxiliary verb be in the required tense-aspect form and the participle II of the notional verb.

The use of tenses in the passive voice is the same as in the active voice. But the future progressive tense and the perfect progressive group of tenses are very uncommon for the PV as they are phonetically difficult, and felt to be ugly. Either a corresponding AV form or a non-progressive passive forms are used instead.


When: the agent is unknowable: The Earth was formed millions of years ago;

the agent is redundant: Oranges are grown in California;

the speaker wants to emphasize the receiver or result of

the action: Six people were killed by the tornado.

when the speaker wants to make a statement sound objective without revealing the source of information: The best results are achieved when the plants are watered regularly;

the speaker wants to be tactful or evasive by not mentioning the agent: Mafia is believed to be very influential in this country.

Normally, the PV occurs only with transitive verbs (they can have an object): Taxes have been raised again.

But such ditransitive verbs as give, send, pay, award, lend, sell, promise, show, offer, teach, owe, grant, hand, feed and leave (in a will) can have two objects after them in an active sentence, e.g.: The Queen gave the pilot a medal. Either of these objects can become the subject of the corresponding passive sentence: The pilot was given a medal and A medal was given to the pilot. (to can be omitted before a personal pronoun: A medal was given him.)

Phrasal Verbs in the Passive: to account for, to agree upon/on, to approve of, to arrive at, to ask for, to care for, to comment on, deal with, to decide on, to dispose of, to hear of, to hope for, to insist on, to laugh at, to listen to, to long for, to pay for, to play with, to put off, to refer to, to rely on, to touch on, to wait for, to worry about.

Three-word phrasal verbs that are often used in the passive:

to do away with, to find fault with, to look down on, to look forward to, to lose sight of, to pay attention to, to put an end to, to put up with, to take care of, to make fun of, to make fuss of, to make a fool of, to get rid of.

The PV of the Verbals. Modal verbs + the PV Infinitive

Nobody likes to be laughed at.

Being written in pencil, the letter was difficult to make out.

Modal verbs commonly precede the PV infinitive:

He must be talked to about it.

Be + participle II

denote an action and is a simple verbal predicate(actional passive):

The road was closed by the police.

denote a state and is a compound nominal predicate consisting of a link verb be and a predicative expressed by participle II(statal passive):

The shop was closed when I got there.

Be + participle II = active voice

By the time she got there, her friend was(had?) gone.




1) Verbs that take two objects admit of two passive constructions:

Everyone envies you your talent. > You are envied. Your talent is envied. (deny/refuse, show, prescribe)

BUT: He explained the rules to the visitors. > The rules were explained to the visitors.

2) Phrasal verbs and verbs with fixed prepositions are found in the Passive:

to depend /rely/count on (sb to do sth), to dispose of sth, to call for sth, to accuse of, to charge with, to blame sb for sth, to blame sth on sb, to provide sb with sth, to provide sth for sb, to send for (a taxi),

to look at; to look into, to entrust sth to sb; to entrust sb with sth, to see to:

Everything will be seen to.

Three-word phrasal verbs:

to look up to, to look down on, to put up with, to talk down to, to do away with

These practices will not be put up with any longer.

The verbs to sleep in/onand to live in can be used in the Passive although they take no objects:

This bed was slept on/in last night.

3) Set expressions: to take sb/sth for granted, to put to (good) use, to get rid of, to take no notice of (not to take any notice of), to set fire to sth, to set sth on fire, to make fun of.

4) All transitive verbs admit of passive constructions even if their Russian equivalents are intransitive:

to affect, to answer, to precede, to follow, to need.

The talk was followed by a film show.

5) The Subjective Infinitive Construction and the Subjective Participial Construction (mainly with verbs of reporting and mental activity):

to assume, to estimate, to know, to say, to believe, to believe, to presume, to think, to consider, to hope, to report, to understand.

Five people were reported missing.

6) Sentences with the introductory IT as subject (mainly with the same verbs as listed above):

It is hoped that legal expenses can be reduced.

7) Occasionally with the introductory THERE(mainly with the same verbs as listed above):

There are known to be lots of poor families in this area.

8) A few verbs are passive in form, but active in meaning:

She was seated on the sofa.

9) Some verbs are active in form but passive in meaning:

to sell, to wash, to read, to drive, to iron, to pay, to sail, to let, to measure, etc.

This bungalow lets for $100 in summer. [NOTE: Let for allow isnt used in the passive]

The shell suit has washed OK.

The book reads easily. The notice read: Danger. Falling Rocks.

(The idea of possibility is often implied).

10) Some verbs can modify their meaning when used in the Passive Voice.

To suppose:

You are supposed to report about it to the police. [=sth should be done because of a law, rule]

She was supposed to be in Cuba. [=it was planned or intended that it should happen; used esp. when the particular thing does not happen]

This castle is supposed to be haunted [=people think that it is true].

Whats that supposed to mean? [used when the speaker is puzzled or angry]

To prepare:

I am not prepared to let you go. [=willing and able]

I was prepared for her fits of madness [=ready for sth and therefore not surprised when it happens]

11) A few verbs can be used in the PV or in the AV with little or no difference in meaning:

They (were) married last year.

Note thetense shift in Active Voice equivalents:

Are you finished? Have you finished?

They were gone. They had gone.

Im done with this exercise. Ive done this exercise.

12) A number of expressions are found only in the Passive:

I was taken aback.

This pen isn't what it's cracked up to be <informal>

Well, I'll be damned (if I know)! <informal>

13) The Passive Voice can be formed withget

I get paid by the hour.

How often do these offices get cleaned?

The dustbin didn't get emptied.

Difference. The get-passive:

a) is more informal

b) expresses an action or a change of state, but not continued state.

c) refers to sth happening by accident, unexpectedly or incidentally. Conversely:

The Winter Palace was designed by Rastrelli. [a deliberate, prolonged action]

Parliament was opened by the Queen. [an official ceremony; a formal style]


1) The verb to make (= to force) in the Passive Voice is followed by the to-infinitive:

They made me repeat the announcement.

I was made torepeat the announcement.


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 141

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