Active and Passive Voice in English – Grammar Lessons & Rules

The use of Passive voice in English 

We use the passive voice because we want to show that we are interested in the person or the thing that experiences an action rather than the subject who performs the action. In passive voice, we are basically interested in the object not the subject.


  • Our school was built in 2001.
  • My father was sent a letter.
  • They were given some money.

Passive voice is sometimes used because we do don’t know or want to avoid saying who did the action.


  • The cake was eaten.
  • The window was broken.
  • The money was stolen.

In English, we have two forms: active and passive forms.

  • Active voice: Ahmed ate the apple.
  • The passive voice: the apple was eaten

If you take a look at this example, you will see that in the passive voice, there are some changes.

The subject is removed. The object is placed in the position of the subject. The auxiliary /was/ is inserted and the verb (ate) is put in the past participle (eaten).

The tables below explain how sentences change from active to passive voice. Note that the main verb is always put in the past participle. The verb to /be/ is inserted and grammatically changed according to the tense.

If the tense is present: we put either (is) for the singular and (are) for the plural. If the tense is the past: we put either (was) for the singular and (were) for the plural. If the tense is present perfect: we put either (has) for the singular and (have) for the plural.


Active voice



She eats the apple

She eats the apples



She ate the apple

She ate the apples



She will eat the apple

She is going to eat the apple

She is going to eat the apples



She is eating the apple

She is eating two apples



She was eating the apple

She was eating two apples



She has eaten the apple

They have eaten apples



They had eaten the apple

She had eaten apples



She will be eating the apple


She will have eaten the apple



She must eat the apple

She can’t eat the apple

She should eat the apple

She may eat the apple

She has to eat the apple


              Rules of using the passive voice in English 

Obj +  be  +  PP

be =  is / are

Obj +  be  +  PP

 be  = was / were

Obj +  will + be  +  PP

be  = be

Obj +  be  + being +  PP

be  = is / are

Obj +  be  + being +  PP

be  = was / were

Obj+ has or  have  + be + PP

be  = been

Obj + had  + be + PP

be  = been

Obj +  will + be + be +PP

be  = being

Obj +  will have + be + PP

be  = been


Obj +  modal  + be + PP

Examples of modals: could,

Can, might, would, shall,

Had to


         Examples of Passive voice 

The apple is eaten

The apples are eaten

The apple was eaten

The apples were eaten


The apple will be eaten

The apple is going to be eaten

The apples are going to be eaten

The apple is being eaten

Two apples are being eaten

The apple was being eaten

Two apples were being eaten

The apple has been eaten

Apples have been eaten

The apple had been eaten

Apples had been eaten

The apple will be being eaten
The apple will he have been



The apple must be eaten

The apple can’t be eaten

The apple should be eaten

The apple may be eaten

The apple has to be eaten


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