Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Grammar - Active voice & PASSIVE voice difference



Look at the following sentences:

(a) The Europeans did notable researches on these statues.
(b) The archaeologists did some careful experiments.
(c) The Island is surrounded by three volcanoes.
(d) The tiny Island was discovered by Katherine.
(e) The inhabitants are cut off from the rest of the world.
(f) The statues are built of volcanic stones.

In the sentence (a) ‘who did researches’ i.e. the subject of the
verb ‘did’ is focussed. So it is in the active voice. Similarly, in the
sentence (b) too.

But in the sentence (c) ‘what is surrounded’ i.e. the object of the
verb ‘surround’ is given more focus than the subject. So, it is in the
passive voice. The same is the case with the sentence (d) too.

In the sentence (e) the state of the inhabitants being cut off from
the rest of the world, is focussed. That is, the action is focused
and so it is in the passive voice without a ‘by-phrase’. The same
explanation applies to the sentence (f) too.


Here we have to see the subtle difference between

(i) the active voice and the passive though the message of
the sentence remains the same

(ii) and between the passive with a by-phrase and the
passive without a by-phrase


The passive in English is generally formed in the following ways:

(i) be + the past participle
e.g. Many fallen stones were restored.
Weather reports are prepared by the Meteorological

(ii) have + been + the past participle
e.g. About 1000 such statues have been found.
Boyle’s Law has not been understood by the

(iii) modal + be + the past participle
e.g. A knife can be used for cutting fruits as well as killing
a person.

(iv) be + the passive participle
e.g. The candidates in the waiting list are to be appointed
very soon.

(v) get + the past participle
e.g. Ninety one children got burnt to death in a fire accident
in a school.
My niece got married last month.

(vi) have + object + the past participle
e.g. Tim had his hair cut yesterday.

(vii) verb + being or be + the past participle
e.g. The children enjoyed being taken to the zoo.
The girl deserves to be given a bravery award.

TASK 1: Underline the passive forms of the verbs in the
following passage and identify each with one of the
above forms given:

Prior to 1994, Indian cars weren’t required to fit even front
seat belts and only in the last few months belts for the rear have
become mandatory. Although child safety seats are available as
an accessory, they are rarely used in this country. Indeed adults
seated in front regularly hold infants in their laps. In the event of
a crash, the child may be crushed between dashboard and adult,
so kids should always be made to sit at the back and strapped in
properly. If the child has to be held it is safer for the adult and the
child to sit at the back.

TASK 2: Fill in the blanks using the appropriate form (active
or passive) of the verb given in brackets:

The World Wide Web is a glossy multimedia magazine with
text pictures, sounds and video. It ……… (can / use) for academic
research. It ……….. (make) up of various kinds of information
provided by countless individuals and organisations. In theory
everything you ever ……… (want), ………. (can / find) with the
click of a mouse. Information ……….. (link) in a way that
………….. (give) it a web-like structure.

TASK 3 : Change the sentences in the following passage into
passive wherever possible:

In 1626, the Dutch bought Manhattan Island. They built a
settlement there and called it New Amsterdam. The English settlers
did not like this. The Duke of York sent a fleet. This fleet sailed to
NewAmsterdam and captured the town without firing a shot. They
changed the name from New Amsterdam to New York to honour
the royal duke.

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