被動語法

What is the Passive?

The passive is used in English to change the focus of a sentence or to create a sentence with no subject.  In a normal sentence we have:

Subject + Verb + Object

He ate the bread

Here the subject (he) is the focus of the sentence. The passive voice in English will switch the object and the subject of the sentence to make

Object + Verb + Subject

The bread was eaten by him

Here is the object (bread) and the verb (eaten) are the most important thing in the sentence and the focus is on them.

How to make the passive?

  1. To make the passive we must first change the position of the subject and the object. Remember to change the pronoun – he to him / she to her etc.
  2. We then add the verb ‘to be‘ after the subject, but be careful about the tense.
    1. present simple – the bread is eaten by him
    2. present continuous – the bread is being eaten by him
    3. past simple – the bread was eaten by him
    4. past continuous – the bread was being eaten by him
    5. present perfect – the bread has been eaten by him
    6. past perfect – the bread had been eaten by him
    7. future simple – the bread will be eaten by him
    8. future continuous – the bread will be being eaten by him
    9. (It is not commonly used in perfect continuous tenses)
  3. Add the past participle (V3) for every tense. See that number 1 to 8 all use eaten

Examples

  1. I play football -> football is played by me
  2. The teacher taught the class -> The class was taught by the teacher
  3. He will drive the car to the airport ->the car will be driven to the airport by him
  4. Larry had played with his toy car before -> Larry’s toy had been played with by Larry before
  5. He is eating a big lunch – > a big lunch is being eaten by him

When do we use the passive

As I said before, we use the passive to emphasise the object or the verb of the sentence. In other words – we don’t really care who did the action. We also use it when we don’t know who did the action or we don’t want to say.

  1. My bag was stolen
  2. My bag was found
  3. The house was built in 1996
  4. The internet was invented in the 20th century
  5. Library books can be borrowed for up to 3 weeks

1 + 2 = We probably don’t know who stole the bag or found the bag.
3 + 4 = We don’t know or don’t care who invented or built it.
5 = Used to talk about people in general. The active sentence would be You (plural) can borrow library books for up to 3 weeks.

 

Rules

  • We cannot use intransitive verbs which are verbs that can’t take an object – cry, laugh, smile, swim etc.
  • Try to avoid using the passive in academic writing as they can make sentences too vague, and can possibly show that you don’t know who did something!
    • ‘This discovery was made sometime last year’.  
  • Also using the passive can make your sentences unnaturally long so try to avoid using it unless you have to in writing.

 

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