Lesson eighth

Active Voice and Passive Voice

Verbs are either active or passive in voice. In the active voice, the subject and verb relationship is straightforward: the subject is a do-er. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is not a do-er. It is shown with by + do-er or is not shown in the sentence.
Passive voice is used when the action is the focus, not the subject. It is not important (or not known) who does the action. 

  • The window is broken. (It is not known who broke the window, or it is not important to know who broke the window.)
  • The class has been canceled. (The focus is on the class being canceled. It is not important to know who canceled it.)
  • The passive voice is often used. (The focus is on the passive voice. It is not important to explain who the writer is.)

Passive voice should be avoided when you want more clarity in writing. However, in some cases, you need to use passive voice to stress the action, not the actor. Also, passive voice can be considered more polite, as it sounds less aggressive or dramatic. 

  • That building was built in 1990.
  • The car was invented about a hundred years ago.
  • I was told that Mary moved to a different country.
  • Your business is appreciated.
  • She was elected to city council.
  • It was rumored that the company would lay off a few people soon.
  • It is recommended that the billing process be shortened.

You can easily rewrite an active sentence to a passive sentence. The object in the active sentence becomes a subject in the passive sentence. The verb is changed to a “be” verb + past participle. The subject of the active sentence follows by or is omitted. 

  • Sam wrote a letter to Jamie.
  • A letter was written to Jamie by Sam.


  • The government built a new bridge.
  • A new bridge was built by the government.


  • I recommend that you apply for this position.
  • It is recommended that you apply for this position.

Ron: Hi, I'm Ron from Hawaii. I'm here with Mari from Japan. Today we're going to be talking about entertainment, and how often we do these things. So Mari, how often do you watch TV?

Mari: I watch the news in the morning and when I come home at night I sometimes watch TV.

Ron: Do you have a favorite TV show?

Mari: I don't have a favorite TV show.

Ron: OK. How often do you go to the movies?

Mari: I really like going to the movies. I think I go maybe once a month or maybe once every two months.

Ron: And other than that do you rent movies?

Mari: No, I don't rent movies but sometimes I download movies. I like to watch comedies - romantic comedies - and a little bit of drama.

Ron: What is your favorite movie you've watch recently?

Mari: My favorite movie... I don't know if it was my favorite movie, but a movie that I watched recently is called "27 Dresses". It is about a girl, or a woman, who is a bridesmaid twenty-seven times.

Ron: And that's a romantic comedy?

Mari: It is.

Ron: Interesting. What about reading? Do you like to read books?

Mari: I do like to read books. Right now, I'm really busy with work so I don't have a lot of time to read but when I'm on vacation or whenever I have free time, I like to read books.

Ron: What kind of books?

Mari: I like to read non-fiction usually. Biographies of people, and I also like to read about like teaching practices so that I can become a better teacher and a little bit of fiction.

Ron: And what about concerts? Do you enjoy going to concerts?

Mari: I don't go to music concerts. I don't think I've ever been to one actually but I like to go see musicals and I also like to go to sporting events.

Ron: Nice talking with you Mari.