An intimate knowledge of active and passive forms of verbs is a handy tool for not only authors who need to make complex sentences but also our CAT 2007/2008 aspirants who need to identify subtle errors in usage. Knowing the correct forms of many irregular verbs and the structure of formation of passive verbs can prevent much confusion while reading sentences. Presented in the article below, is a comprehensive collection of usage notes for active and passive voice.
The Verbs can be categorised into two forms:
Active- Eva is eating food.
Passive- the food is eaten by Eva.
In active voice, 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 food is eaten. The active voice takes the form of "A does B"; the passive takes the form of "B is done [by A]."
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 food has been eaten by Eva" The passive can be used, also, in various tenses.
The passive voice is formed with the suitable tense of the verb ‘be’ followed by the past participle.
As a general rule, Active voice is used to when the do-er of the action is to be made prominent and Passive voice is used used when Person/ thing acted upon is made prominent.
Active voice- Toby drank the milk.
In the above sentence the stress is laid upon Toby.
Passive Voice- The milk has been drunk by Toby.
In the sentence the stress is laid upon the milk.
Verbs that can be followed by either object + prepositional object or object + object in active forms can have two corresponding active forms.
All the 4 sentences in the above table are correct. Some other verbs that follow the same rule include – lend, promise, offer, hand, give, sell, teach, throw.
Verbs such as explain, demonstrate, introduce, mention, describe, report and suggest cannot follow the ‘object + object’ rule in active voice and have only one passive form.
‘With’ should be used to talk about an instrument/tool used by an agent.
In the above sentence ‘the pen’ is an instrument/tool used by an agent.
Verbs such as avoid, enjoy, consider, delay, deny, remember, imagine, resent, describe, and deny follow the active pattern of verb + ing + object in active voice.
Verbs such as bring, catch, hear, keep, find, show, notice, send and see follow the active pattern that is used is Verb + Object + ing
Put the main verb into the passive form. Following are the past participle forms of some irregular verbs.
When ‘what is said by people’ is general or is by an unspecified group of people, the pattern used is ‘it + passive verb+ that clause’. The passive verbs used in this pattern are acknowledge, see, suppose, declare, discover, consider, claim, say, recommend, report, allege, mention, announce, estimate, feel, find, expect, understand, think, calculate, decide, propose, assume, know, show and suggest.
It is suggested that you take your medicines on time.
It is assumed that you are well versed with the calculations.
Verbs such as come, start, begin, appear, seem, continue, tend, agree, aim, hope, try, struggle, refuse and attempt follow the active pattern verb + to infinitive + object.
Verbs such as allow, advise, believe, consider, fell, instruct, teach, require, tell, understand, expect, mean, report, and order follow the active pattern Verb + Object + to infinitive
Be careful with the dangling modifiers caused by the use of passive voice.
Incorrect- Reaching Europe at the beginning of the 17th century, they called it “the wine of Arabia” (what was called the wine of Arabia? Europe or the 17th century?).
Correct- Reaching Europe at the beginning of the 17th century, the coffee was called “the wine of Arabia” by them.
The entire sentence should be in a single form, either active or passive. Avoid starting a sentence in active voice and then shifting to passive or vice versa.
Although he is as gifted, if not more gifted, than many of his colleagues, he is extremely modest and with his poetry remaining unpublished.-- Incorrect
Although he is as gifted as, if not more gifted than, many of his colleagues, he is extremely modest and will not publish his poetry. Correct
Verbs such as wish, love, hate, prefer, want, need, bear and like follow the active forms – object + to- infinitive . They do not have passive forms.
She wanted Shyam to go.- Correct
Shyam was wanted by her to be gone. Incorrect
Rohit preferred to write with a pencil- Correct
Pencil was preferred by Rohit to be written with – Incorrect
When the active voice is in the form that + there’, the passive for should be in the form there+ passive verb + to be