The Passive Voice

The Passive Voice 

direct object (кого, что) e.g. I saw him in the room

Transitive Verbs direct and indirect object (кому, чему) e.g. I gave her a book.

prepositional object e.g. Do it for me.

require no object e.g. He walks fast.

Intransitive Verbs

prepositional object e.g. Hope for the best.

Verbs may be TRANSITIVE in one meaning and INTRANSITIVE in the other

She writes to me
She writes with a pencil


TYPE 1. The DIRECT PASSIVE. (Active Object à Subject Passive)

e.g. He wrote this book 2 years ago. à This book was written 2 years ago.

NB. In Russian these verbs can't be used in the passive voice but in English they can: approach, attend, answer, help, assist, follow,

influence, join, watch
etc. e.g. They were joined by the others at that moment.

1. Complex Subject:
e.g. She is said to be … I wasn't allowed to chat.

2. Formal "IT" (the passive is followed by "that"): It was (is) … that

agree, announce, believe, decide, determine, expect, explain, feel, know, notice, observe, propose, recommend, report, require, request, rumor, say, suggest, think, understand.
e.g. It was decided that he would leave the following day.


This type is never used:

  1. if the Direct Active Object = inf., object clause, reflexive, possessive pronoun, noun with a possessive pronoun referring to the same person as in the subject:

    e.g. We agreed to meet at 5 o'clock. I saw that he knew about it. He hurt himself. He cut his finger.
  2. Set phrases that can't be separated:

    keep one's word,: take care

    lose courage,
    take no notice

    lose heart, BUT can be used passively

    lose one's patience, pay attention to

    take alarm (courage, flight)
    take responsibility


3. Some transitives: resemble, suit, fit, have, possess, lack.
! The place holds 5000 people.


TYPE 2 The DIRECT & INDIRECT PASSIVE ( Active Direct (Active Indirect) à Passive Subject)

e.g. I gave her a book. à She was given a book. A book was give to her.

Indirect Passive isn't possible when it implies "for" : A new dictionary was bought to me.


  1. After give, grant, leave, lend, offer, pay, promise, send, show, tell.
  2. After the following expressions TYPE 1 should be better used:

Give a chance, an opportunity a task orders

a choice, a party first aid shelter e.g. He wasn't given a chance to explain.

a job, a post news, prominence

an explanation, a sentence notice


Bring, play, read, write
e.g. I wrote him a letter. à A letter was written to him.


TYPE 3 The PREPOSITIONAL PASSIVE (Active Prepositional Object à Subject Passive)

  • Preposition retains after the verb in the passive voice. e.g. Mom sent for the doctor à The doctor was sent for.


1. Verbs of SPEAKING: comment on, speak about(of, to), talk about (of, to), write about. e.g. I've been much talked about


2. Verb "look" (+ at, upon, after, for, into) + other phrasal verbs: e.g. He was looked upon as their leader.

  1. Verbs of MOCKERY, BLAME: frown, laugh, mock, shout, sneer, spit, swear, whistle at e.g. You'll be laughed at.


  1. Other verbs: account for, ask for, deal with, rely on, disapprove of
    e.g. She was called for.

approve of, call for, think of, send for


  1. Set Phrases: get in touch with, take care of, make a fool of
    e.g. He is not easy to get in touch with


Not found with the verbs which take 2 objects (àTYPE 1): announce, dedicate, devote, explain (smth to smb), point out, propose, say, suggest. e.g. The difficulty was explained to her (She was explained the difficulty to)


TYPE 4 The PLACE PASSIVE (rare use) (Active Adverbial Modifier of PLACE à Subject Passive)

  • Preposition is retained after the verb in the passive

e.g. The room hasn't been lived in for years. (the bed slept in, the chairs sat in)


We are not interested WHO
or HOW
the action is (was) done. But sometimes we can use:

BY (кем?) – the doer of the action.

e.g. This house was built by my father. 

(с помощью, чем) – an instrument.

The letter was written with a brown pencil. 

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