Ed Tyrrell

The Passive Voice

The Passive Voice is used in English when we describe an action that is done without including who or what does the action (the agent – often referred to as the subject) in the same sentence.






It contrasts with the Active Voice where the person or thing that does the action is evident: e.g.

Active: A famous thief stole the painting.

Passive: The painting was stolen.

In the Active Voice, the famous thief is the agent and the painting is the object.

In the Passive Voice there is no agent and ‘the painting’ becomes the subject of the Passive sentence.

We use the passive voice in several situations:

  • when we don’t know who or what does the action
  • when we are not interested in who or what doest the action
  • when the action, and not who or what does it, is the focus
  • when we want to distance ourselves from the action
  • when describing processes and procedures