Mice are eaten by cats.
Although the passive voice is less common than the active voice, there are several good reasons to sometimes use the passive.
How do we make the passive?
The basic structure of a passive clause is very simple:
The auxiliary be is conjugated in all tenses. The main verb is always the past participle. The agent is the original "doer" of the action.
Look at some examples:
|subject||auxiliary verb be||main verb
|You||will be||woken||at 6.|
|It||will have been||finished||by then.|
|We||have been||notified||by||Head Office.|
|You||are being||transferred||next week.|
The subject of an active sentence "does" the action. In a passive sentence, we express the doer (or agent) through a by phrase (the long passive) or, very often, we remove it completely (the short passive). In the following example, the agent is "the Allies":
|active||The Allies firebombed Dresden.|
|passive||long||Dresden was firebombed by the Allies.|
|short||Dresden was firebombed.|
The short passive is also known as the "agentless passive". Soon you will see how useful it can be.
Negatives and questions
The table below shows examples of the passive with negative sentences, question sentences and negative-question sentences:
|-||You||are||not||paid||to watch YouTube.|
Use of the passive
When and why do we use passive voice?
There are several times when the passive voice is useful, and usually the decision has to do with the "doer" (agent) or the "receiver" of the action. For example, we use the passive when:
Look at this sentence:
Normally we use by to introduce the agent. But the gun is not the original doer of the action. The gun did not kill him. He was killed by somebody with a gun. In the active voice, it would be: Somebody killed him with a gun. Somebody is the agent. The gun is the instrument.
Although we normally construct the passive with be + past participle, it is also possible (in informal language) to use get + past participle. So if France beat England at football, we could turn this to passive and say "England were beaten by France" (be-passive) or "England got beaten by France" (get-passive). And we might also add: "But France will get thrashed by Russia."
For formal English and exams you should use the be-passive, but in informal language people sometimes use the get-passive.
Forms of passive
The passive voice is not a tense itself. But for transitive verbs each tense, as well as other verb forms such as infinitives and participles, can be produced in the passive voice. Some of the more complicated tenses (mostly perfect continuous) are rarely used in the passive, but they are possible.
Here are some examples of the passive voice with many of the possible forms using the verb sing:
|infinitive||to be sung|
|perfect infinitive||to have been sung|
|perfect participle||having been sung|
|Present||am, are, is sung||am, are, is being sung||have, has been sung|
|Past||was, were sung||was, were being sung||had been sung|
|Future||will be sung||will be being sung||will have been sung|