The Passive Voice World (2)


Prepositions In the Passive Voice
The passive infinitive
The Interrogative Passive
The Negative and Interro-negative passive
More than one passive
Verb + Adverb Combination

It's useless now, I think, to remind you that we are dealing with the transformation of "possible" active sentences into the passive voice. I tried to show the limits of this transformation previously in part I and no w I'll try to intensify your awareness of the fact that not all active sentences are automatically convertible into the passive voice and not all passive sentences have the same rules. There still are things we didn't talk about fully. Let's present them this way:

Prepositions In The Passive Voice.

Rare are those among our students who notice the preposition in a sentence when putting it in the passive form. As I have mentioned this common mistake before, I'll only manage to show, through examples, how things should be treated in cases as such:

Active Sentence
Passive Sentence
They have spoken to me.I have been spoken to.
someone broke into my office.My office was broken into.
They threw the empty bottles away.The empty bottles were thrown away.
Somebody is looking for you.You are being looked for.
They were talking about you.You were being talked about.
They listened to the new song.The new song was listened to.*

As you can see, all the prepositions are moved to the passive sentences. Imagine those passive sentences without the prepositions! They would be meaningless, I'm afraid!

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The Passive Infinitive

There isn't really much to say here except for what you already know notably the verb after a modal or auxiliary is always in the infinitive without "to". In other words: (Auxiliary + infinitive combinations) are made passive by using a passive infinitive. To illustrate this, we may put it this way:

[ MODAL / AUXILARY + BE + Past Participle ]

Now here are some practice for you. Contemplate:

Active Sentence
Passive Sentence
You can do it.It can be done
You must respect the law.The law must be respected.
They will contact you. You will be contacted.
They would arrest him. He would be arrested.
Somebody might see the little boy.The little boy might be seen.
Someone may repair the car.The car may be repaired.
You ought to clean the deskThe desk ought to be cleaned.
Someone is going to discover the error.The error is going to be discovered. etc.

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Put the following sentences in the passive voice:

They kicked him out.
They have to see the film.
He must have cut off his finger.
They could visit the temple today.
She used to call him "Pit".
They could see the lady stealing food.

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The Interrogative Passive

Questions also are sometimes exposed to transformation when necessary. They respect the same rules. When the agent is not important to mention, it's better to speak or write your questions in the passive.

Here are some examples:

- What must we do about this?What must be done about this?
- What questions did they ask?What questions were asked?
- Did they tell her the story?Was she told the story?
- Has anyone dusted that blackboard yet? Has that blackboard been dusted yet?
- Will anyone tell him about the test? Will he be told about the test?

Like affirmative sentences the interrogative ones are transformed in the way that (be) is present to accomplish the operation.

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The negative and interro-negative passive

If the above explanations were clear enough for you, any other explanations will be useless except for something very important about the negative sentences I'd like to tell you.

Look at this : My sister did not cook that meal. In this sentence the underlined "not" is shown and you can see that the sentence is obviously negative. In cases where the "not" appears in the sentence, you only have to be careful about the tense of the passive verb while reconstructing your sentence. Here is it in the passive voice: That meal was not cooked by my sister. The "not" is transported to the passive sentence as you have been shown previously. Why did I mention this? Simply because in some other negative sentences the "not" cannot be noticed because of its camouflage.

Look at this sentence:

Nobody can read your handwriting.

This sentence looks affirmative because the phrase can read doesn't look negative because, once again, the word "not" doesn't appear in the sentence and the verb "read" is not preceded by (auxiliary+not) as we normally expect a sentence in the negative form to be; but still the sentence is negative. This form often misleads our students because they cannot notice that the subject carries the negative element in the sentence: Nobody ... Thus the sentence in the passive should be as follows:

Your handwriting can not be read.

See this one, too:

Didn't they allow you to go in?

This sentence is both negative and interrogative in one. You have to think about how it will look like in the passive voice. O.K! Let's do that together!
Weren't you allowed to go in?

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Put the following sentences in the passive voice:

Where did they park the car?
No one has given out the news yet.
Must not we do the quiz?
Have you already done it?
Doesn't she tell you the truth?
No one has broken the window.

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More than one passive

Some compound or complex sentences can bear more than one passive voice. In written English the passive is used to save the changing of the subject of a clause sequence. The passive is concise in expressing long winding sentences. We'll come back to this important mechanism lately but now, let's try first with a sentence made of two passives:
They had stolen all the gold before they set fire to the shop.
(1)                                        (2)
If we managed to put the two sentences in the passive voice separately; what would this manoeuvre come out with?!
(1) The gold had all been stolen.
(2) Fire was set to the shop.
Now let's join them together with the linker before which was already given in the active form. Our new compound passive sentence is this:

The gold had all been stolen before fire was set to the shop
(1)                                        (2)

What about a complex sentence with three passives, for instance? This is an example:

(1)Nobody would have asked him his identity card if they had told him what places he had to ovoid.
(2)He wouldn't have been asked his identity card if he had been told what places had to be avoided.

In this example the sentence contains three passive operational parts which should be handled carefully. The complication resides in finding the object in each part of the active sentence which allows the transformation to be done safely. You have to bear in mind that operations as such are more delicate and dangerous for the meaning if things weren't perceived from different angles. Needless to repeat here that the possibility to put one clause (part) in the passive doesn't automatically allow you to do the same for the rest except if they hold the elements necessary for the transition to the passive. Let's do this example for more practice:

(1) It must have shocked him that his boss informed him that she no longer appreciated his work style.
(2)He must have been shocked to be informed that his work style was no longer appreciated.

The importance, in priority, is for the meaning rather than for the form. Is the sentence in the passive greatly reflects its original copy in the active form?! That's what counts the most. Yet this importance would never be reachable but on condition that the grammatical syntactic structure of the passive sentence is irreproachable.

If we talked a little bit now about the mechanism of making long winding active sentences short and expressive concisely thanks to the passive voice? This is how the passive works effectively for the language is good when it expresses a lot of information in a few words. This is the job of the passive in sentences like the following. Compare:

(1) The police arrested him. They questioned him about the charges against him, which he denied firmly.
(2) He was arrested, questioned about the charges against him and denied them all firmly.

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Verb + Adverb Combination

The order of words in the passive respects the original order used in the active sentence except for the placement of the adverb of manner. Look at these examples and notice the placements of the adverbs of manner:

  1. They talked about the boy proudly.
  2. The boy was proudly talked about.
  1. They understood him well.
  2. He was well understood.
  1. They advised her to treat the children kindly.
  2. She was advised to kindly treat the children.
  1. He was driving the car carelessly.
  2. The car was being carelessly driven.

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There are a lot of other details about sentences in the passive voice. I think it's better to keep them to part three if there is any part three...

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