English Lesson & Quiz: The Passive Voice

Michael Uncategorized 1 Comment

A variety of apples are produced in New York

New York City is known as the Big Apple. Many people have discussed when and how the city got this nickname, but few people talk about the fruit itself – apples. A lot of apples are grown in the state of New York. Next to Washington, New York is the largest producer of apples in the USA. New York’s apples are enjoyed by many people across the country.  Speaking of big things, do you know the Empire State Building? Now the tallest building in New York City, this landmark was built in 1931.

Today, let’s look at using the passive voice. Do you know how to use this grammar? Have a look at the paragraph above and then check out today’s lesson.

The passive voice is formed using the be verb + past participle (PP). Here are some examples:

  • Apples are grown in the state of New York.
  • New York’s apples are enjoyed by many people across the country.
  • The Empire State Building was completed in 1931.

We use the passive voice when we talk about a process. The passive voice focuses on the outcome of the process, not who performed the process. Look at these examples:

  • Apples are grown in New York. This sentence uses the passive voice. We don’t know who grows apples, we just know the growing process happens.
  • Many farms in New York grow apples. This sentence uses the active voice. Here, we do know who grows apples.

We use the passive voice when we talk about an action. The passive voice focuses on the outcome of the action, not who did the action. So, we use the passive voice when we do not know who did the action, or when the outcome of the action is more important than the action itself. Look at these examples:

  • When Joe opened the refrigerator, he realized all of the cheese was eaten last night. This sentence uses the passive voice. Joe doesn’t know who ate the cheese.
  • My car was stolen last night. Here too, the outcome of the action is important.

So we generally use the passive voice when we talk about a manufacturing, or creative process, or when we are unable to say who did the action:

  • Many fine rugs are made in Turkey. A manufacturing process
  • “Let It Be” was written in 1968 and released in 1970. A creative process.
  • Bob’s car was stolen last night. We don’t know who did it.

We can also use the passive voice + by when we want to include the person or “agent” who does the action.

  • Many fine rugs are made in Turkey by skilled craftsmen.
  • “Let It Be” was written in 1968 by Paul McCartney

Generally, we prefer to use the active voice when we know who did the action. In such cases, the passive voice can sound unnatural or too formal:

  • My sister cooked dinner last night.
  • Dinner was cooked by my sister. This sounds unnatural.
  • The marketing department will be holding a meeting at 3:00.
  • A meeting will be held by the marketing department at 3:00. This sounds too formal.

Thanks for studying with me today. Are you ready to test yourself on this topic? Take the quiz now (some questions have more than one answer)


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