Active voice

In most English sentences with an action verb, the subject performs the action denoted by the verb.

  These examples show that the subject is  doing the verb's action.


Because the subject does or "acts upon" the verb in such sentences, the sentences are said to be in the active voice.


 Passive voice


One can change the normal word order of many active sentences (those with a direct object) so that the subject is no longer active, but is, instead, being acted upon by the verb - or passive.

    Note in these examples how the subject-verb relationship has changed.


Because the subject is being "acted upon" (or is passive), such sentences are said to be in the passive voice.


NOTE:   Colorful parrots live in the rainforests cannot be changed to passive voice because the sentence does not have a direct object.

To change a sentence from active to passive voice, do the following:

  1. Move  the active sentence's direct object into the sentence's subject  slot


  1. Place the active sentence's subject into a  phrase beginning with the preposition by


  1. Add a form of the auxiliary verb be to the main verb and change the  main verb's form


Because passive voice sentences necessarily add words and change the normal doer-action-receiver of action direction, they may make the reader work harder to understand the intended meaning.

As the examples below illustrate, a sentence in  active voice  flows more smoothly and is easier to understand than the same sentence in  passive voice.



It is generally preferable to use the ACTIVE voice.

To change a passive voice sentence into an active voice sentence, simply reverse the steps shown above.

  1.  Move  the passive sentence's subject into the active  sentence's  direct object slot




    2.  Remove  the auxiliary verb be from the main verb and change main verb's form if needed


             3. Place the passive sentence's object of the preposition by into the subject slot.




Because it is more direct, most writers prefer to use the active voice whenever possible.

The passive voice may be a better choice, however, when

  • the doer of the action is unknown, unwanted, or unneeded in the sentence




             the writer wishes to emphasize the action of the sentence rather than the doer of the action





  • the writer wishes to use passive voice for sentence variety.



Passive and Active Voices


Verbs are also said to be either active (The executive committee approved the new policy) or passive (The new policy was approved by the executive committee) in voice. In the active voice, the subject and verb relationship is straightforward: the subject is a be-er or a do-er and the verb moves the sentence along. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is neither a do-er or a be-er, but is acted upon by some other agent or by something unnamed (The new policy was approved). Computerized grammar checkers can pick out a passive voice construction from miles away and ask you to revise it to a more active construction. There is nothing inherently wrong with the passive voice, but if you can say the same thing in the active mode, do so (see exceptions below). Your text will have more pizzazz as a result, since passive verb constructions tend to lie about in their pajamas and avoid actual work.


We find an overabundance of the passive voice in sentences created by self-protective business interests, magniloquent educators, and bombastic military writers (who must get weary of this accusation), who use the passive voice to avoid responsibility for actions taken. Thus "Cigarette ads were designed to appeal especially to children" places the burden on the ads — as opposed to "We designed the cigarette ads to appeal especially to children," in which "we" accepts responsibility. At a White House press briefing we might hear that "The President was advised that certain members of Congress were being audited" rather than "The Head of the Internal Revenue service advised the President that her agency was auditing certain members of Congress" because the passive construction avoids responsibility for advising and for auditing. One further caution about the passive voice: we should not mix active and passive constructions in the same sentence: "The executive committee approved the new policy, and the calendar for next year's meetings was revised" should be recast as "The executive committee approved the new policy and revised the calendar for next year's meeting."


Take the quiz (below) as an exercise in recognizing and changing passive verbs.


The passive voice does exist for a reason, however, and its presence is not always to be despised. The passive is particularly useful (even recommended) in two situations:

When it is more important to draw our attention to the person or thing acted upon: The unidentified victim was apparently struck during the early morning hours.

When the actor in the situation is not important: The aurora borealis can be observed in the early morning hours.


The passive voice is especially helpful (and even regarded as mandatory) in scientific or technical writing or lab reports, where the actor is not really important but the process or principle being described is of ultimate importance. Instead of writing "I poured 20 cc of acid into the beaker," we would write "Twenty cc of acid is/was poured into the beaker." The passive voice is also useful when describing, say, a mechanical process in which the details of process are much more important than anyone's taking responsibility for the action: "The first coat of primer paint is applied immediately after the acid rinse."


We use the passive voice to good effect in a paragraph in which we wish to shift emphasis from what was the object in a first sentence to what becomes the subject in subsequent sentences.

The executive committee approved an entirely new policy for dealing with academic suspension and withdrawal. The policy had been written by a subcommittee on student behavior. If students withdraw from course work before suspension can take effect, the policy states, a mark of "IW" . . . .


The paragraph is clearly about this new policy so it is appropriate that policy move from being the object in the first sentence to being the subject of the second sentence. The passive voice allows for this transition.†

Passive Verb Formation


The passive forms of a verb are created by combining a form of the "to be verb" with the past participle of the main verb. Other helping verbs are also sometimes present: "The measure could have been killed in committee." The passive can be used, also, in various tenses. Let's take a look at the passive forms of "design."


A sentence cast in the passive voice will not always include an agent of the action. For instance if a gorilla crushes a tin can, we could say "The tin can was crushed by the gorilla." But a perfectly good sentence would leave out the gorilla: "The tin can was crushed." Also, when an active sentence with an indirect object is recast in the passive, the indirect object can take on the role of subject in the passive sentence.

Only transitive verbs (those that take objects) can be transformed into passive constructions. Furthermore, active sentences containing certain verbs cannot be transformed into passive structures. To have is the most important of these verbs. We can say "He has a new car," but we cannot say "A new car is had by him." We can say "Josefina lacked finesse," but we cannot say "Finesse was lacked." Here is a brief list of such verbs*:


Resemble, look like,  equal , agree  with , mean,   contain , hold , comprise , lack , suit , fit , become

Verbals in Passive Structures


Verbals or verb forms can also take on features of the passive voice. An infinitive phrase in the passive voice, for instance, can perform various functions within a sentence (just like the active forms of the infinitive).

Subject: To be elected by my peers is a great honor.

Object: That child really likes to be read to by her mother.

Modifier: Grasso was the first woman to be elected governor in her own right.


The same is true of passive gerunds.

Subject: Being elected by my peers was a great thrill.

Object: I really don't like being lectured to by my boss.

Object of preposition: I am so tired of being lectured to by my boss.


With passive participles, part of the passive construction is often omitted, the result being a simple modifying participial phrase.

[Having been] designed for off-road performance, the Pathseeker does not always behave well on paved highways.

Active voice (действительный залог)


Simple (простое)

Continuous (длительное)

Perfect (завершенное

Perfect Continuous (завершённо-длительное)

Настоящее (Present)

Констатация факта (что делает?).


Действие, повторяющееся регулярно, обычное.


every day - каждый день

usually - обычно

often - часто

always - всегда

never - никогда

sometimes - иногда


Кроме того, это время употребляется в придаточных предложениях времени и условия после союзов if, when, as soon as, before, вместо Future Simple.

As soon as I write the letter, I will post it immediately.


Кроме того, это время употребляется вместо Continuous с глаголами, обозначающими восприятие, умственные усилия, чувства: to see, to feel, to hear, to know, to understand, to want, to love, to be, to belong, to consist.

I see her now.

I hear a noise.

I don't understand what he is talking about.

Процесс (что делается сейчас?).


Действие в развитии, незаконченное, происходящее в настоящий момент.

ЗавершЈнность (что сделал/сделано?).


Действие, совершившееся в недалеком прошлом, но имеющее непосредственную связь с данным моментом. Речь идет о наличествующем сейчас результате того действия.

Без уточнения момента времени.


Но могут быть:

already - уже,

just - только что,

today - сегодня,

this week - на этой неделе


Процесс уже в течение некоторого периода времени.


Действие, начавшееся до настоящего момента, длившееся некоторое время, и продолжающееся в момент речи или закончившееся непосредственно перед моментом речи. "Уже в течение..."


Пишет (каждый день).

Пишет стихи.

Пишет красиво.

Пишет сейчас (я говорю - а он пишет).

Написал (уже) письмо (то есть: у меня имеется написанное письмо).

письмо).             Пишет уже (в течение часа) час.

Пишет с двух часов

I,you,we,they V,

he,she,it V-s

to be V-ing

to have/has V3

to have/has been V-ing

I write a letter.

I write book stories.

I am writing this letter.

{You,we,they} are writing this letter.

{He,she,it} is writing this letter.

I have written this letter.

He has already written this letter.

I have been writing this letter for two days.

Прошедшее (Past)

Действие, совершавшееся или свершившееся в прошлом и никак не связанное с настоящим моментом речи.

Действие в развитии, незаконченное, происходящее в определенный момент в прошлом.

Часто указан момент прошлого. Никогда не используются глаголы в Past Continuous со словами for, since, recently

Действие, завершЈнное к какому-то определенному моменту в прошлом.

Действие, которое началось ранее указанного момента в прошлом и продолжалось вплоть до этого момента, исключая или включая его.

Никогда не используются глаголы в Past Perfect Continuous со словами at, when, while.


(На)писал вчера.

(На)писал на прошлой неделе.

(На)писал год назад.

(На)писал в 1980 году.

Писал вчера в три часа.

Писал, когда я вошел.

Писал, пока я работал.

Написал письмо вчера/сегодня к семи часам.

Написал до того, как я пришел.

Писал вчера уже два часа (уже в течение двух часов), когда я наконец пришел.

V-ed, V2

was/were V-ing

had V3

had been V-ing

He wrote this letter yesterday.

He was writing this letter yesterday when I came.

They were writing this letter at seven o'clock last night.

He was writing the letter while you were reading

He had written this letter by seven o'clock last night.

He had written this letter before I came.

He had been writing this letter for two hours yesterday when I came.

He had been writing the letter since two o'clock when you came.

Будущее (Future)

Действие или ряд последовательных действий, которые случатся в будущем.

Действие в развитии, незаконченное, происходящее в определенный момент в будущем.

Часто указан момент будущего.

Действие, которое будет завершено до какого-то момента или другого события в будущем.

Действие, которое начнЈтся до определенного момента в будущем и будет продолжаться вплоть до этого момента.


Напишет завтра.

Напишет завтра к семи часам.

Напишет через неделю.

Напишет в будущем году.

Будет писать завтра в семь часов.

Будет писать, когда некто придет.

Будет писать, когда ты будешь читать.

Напишет завтра к семи часам.

Напишет до того, как он придет.

Будет писать уже час, когда он придет.

will V

will be V-ing

will have V3

will have been V-ing

I will write the letter tomorrow.

I will write the letter tomorrow by 7 o'clock.

I will be writing a letter when he comes.

(обратите внимание на настоящее время глагола come -- если главное предложение в будущем времени, то условие - в настоящем!).

I will be writing a letter at 7 o'clock tomorrow.

I will be writing a letter while you'll be reading.

I will have written the letter before he comes.

I will have been writing a letter for an hour when he comes.

Passive voice ( страдательный залог « Я подвергаюсь чужому воздействию»)


Simple (простое)

Continuous (длительное)

Perfect (завершенное)





Меня часто (обычно, всегда) спрашивают.

Меня спрашивают прямо сейчас.

Меня уже спросили к этому моменту.

to be (am, are, is) V-ed, V3

to be (am, are, is) being V-ed, V3

to have/has been V-ed, V3

I am often asked by the people about ...

I am being asked by my chief...

I have been asked at that moment.





Меня спросили когда-то.

Меня спрашивали в тот момент.

Меня уже спросили к тому моменту.

was/were V-ed, V3

was/were being V-ed, V3

had been V-ed, V3

I was asked by the policeman ...

They were asked by the policeman...

I was being asked.

I had been asked.





Меня спросят (завтра).

Такой формы нет

Меня уже спросят к тому моменту.

will be V-ed, V3

Эта форма отсутствует, используется Future Simple:

will be being V-ed, V3

will have been V-ed, V3

I will be asked by the students ...

Такой формы нет

I will have been asked.

Долженствование "Я должен сделать", "мне нужно сделать" выражается формами

I have (he has) to do; I ought to do

Согласование времён в косвенной речи

Прямая речь

         Косвенная речь

You are pretty.

You are so intelligent.

You dance so well.

You've got [have got] lovely hair.

I'll never forget this day. 

He said I was pretty.

He said I was so intelligent.

He said I danced so well.

He said I had got lovely hair.

He said he would never forget that day. 

Do you like ballet?

Have you ever been to Boston?

He asked me if/whether I liked ballet.

He asked me if/whether I had ever been to Boston.

Where do you study?

What are you reading?

When will we meet again?

Why don't you stay longer?

He asked me where I studied.

He asked me what I was reading.

He asked me when I should meet him again.

He asked me why I didn't stay longer.

Give me your telephone number, please.

Ring me up tomorrow.

Help me to translate an article from English!

He asked me to give him my telephone number.

He asked me to ring him up the next morning.

He asked me to help him to translate an article from English.


Согласование времен (Active Voice)

Главное предложение

Придаточное предложение в косвенной речи

Он сказал, что...

He said, that...




Perfect Continuous

Настоящее (Present)...

пишет (вообще)

пишет (сейчас)

написал (уже)

пишет (уже в течение часа)



is writing

has written

has been writing

Прошедшее (Past)...

написал (вчера)

писал (вчера в 7 часов)

написал (вчера к 7и часам)

писал (вчера уже 3 часа, когда вдруг нечто случилось)


was writing

had written

had been writing

...переходит в формы прошедшего же времени (Past)

had written (Perfect)

was writing (Continuous - не меняется) или

had been writing (Perfect Continuous)

эта форма остаЈтся без изменения

эта форма остаЈтся без изменения

Будущее (Future)...

напишет (завтра)

будет писать (завтра в 7 часов)

напишет (завтра к 7и часам)

будет писать (завтра уже 3 часа, когда вдруг нечто случится)


will write

will be writing

will have written

will have been writing

...переходит в формы Будущего-в-прошедшем (Future-in-the-past)

would write

would be writing

would have written

would have been writing

Кроме изменения формы глагола в придаточном предложении при обращении прямой речи в косвенную происходит следующая замена наречий места, времени и указательных местоимений:

Прямая речь

Косвенная речь

now - сейчас

here - здесь

this, these - это, этот, эти

today - сегодня

tomorrow - завтра

yesterday - вчера

next week - на следующей неделе

next year - на будущий год

last week - на прошлой неделе

last year - в прошлом году

then - тогда

there - там

that, those - то, тот, те

that day - в тот день

(the) next day, the following day - на следующий день

the day before, the previous day - накануне

the next week, the following week - на следующей неделе

the next year, the following year - в следующем году

the previous week - за неделю до

the year before - за год до

Когда в главном предложении указывается адресат сообщения:

Он сказал Борису, что...

He said to Boris that...,

глагол say с предлогом to можно заменять глаголом tell без предлога:

He told Boris that...

Согласование времЈн (Passive Voice)

Главное предложение

Придаточное дополнительное предложение

Он сказал, что эти                           амбары

He said, that...




Настоящее (Present)...

строят (вообще)

строят (сейчас)

выстроили (уже)

...переходит в формы прошедшего времени (Past)

were built

were being built

had been built

Прошедшее (Past)...

выстроили, строили (в прошлом году)

строили в ...

выстроили (к 1 января)

...переходит в те же формы прошедшего же времени (Past)

Будущее (Future)...

построят (в будущем году)


построят (к 1 января)

...переходит в формы Будущего-в-прошедшем (Future-in-the-past)

would be built


would have been built


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