Examine the following sentences:
(1) Deepika writes a chapter.
(2) A chapter is written by Deepika.
Meaning of both the sentences is the same.
In sentence (1), Deepika is the subject and chapter is the object.
In sentence (2), place of the subject and object has changed from present form to past participle form
Sentence (1) is in Active Voice, because the subject ‘Deepika’ is the doer of an action in relation to the verb writes.
Sentence (2) is in Passive Voice, because something has been done to the object by the subject ‘Deepika’.
We also see that any Active Voice sentence can be converted into a Passive Voice sentence if the original sentence has an object.
When should one use the passive voice?
The sentence structure can be expressed in the active voice and in the passive voice without any change in the meaning. Sentence cannot be converted into passive voice if there is presence of intransitive verb in it. This is because they cannot have objects, and so there is nothing to become the subject of the passive sentence. For example, with verbs like die, arrive, go, come, laugh, cry, walked, etc.
Rules for conversion:
Following are the rules for converting a sentence from Active Voice to Passive Voice:
(a) The subject and object are interchanged.
(b) The preposition ‘by’ is added before the subject in the passive form, if subject is required to be mentioned.
(c) The verb is changed to 3rd form.
(d) A new auxiliary verb (according to the subject and tense) is introduced.
When should one use the Passive Voice?
- When we want to change the focus of the sentence:
Eg: The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci. (We are more interested in the painting than the artist in this sentence)
- When who or what causes the action is unknown or unimportant or obvious or ‘people in general’:
Eg: She was punished (obvious agent, the teacher)
Her pen has been stolen (unknown agent)
Admission form can be obtained from the office (people in general)
- In factual or scientific writing:
Eg: The liquid is placed in a beaker, and the data is entered into the handbook
- In formal writing instead of using someone/people/they (these can be used in speaking or informal writing):
Eg: The construction work will be finished next year.
- In order to put the new information at the end of the sentence to improve style:
Eg: Few books are used regularly in the class. The books were written by Dr. Arora.
- When the subject is very long:
Eg: I was surprised by how well the contestants performed (more natural than: how well the students did in the test surprised me’).