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Active and Passive Sentence Structures

Parts of a sentence

A sentence consists of three basic parts: a subject, verb and object.

Subject: This is what the sentence is about.
It can be a noun or a pronoun.
The subject does the action.

Verb: Every sentence must have a main verb.
The verb tells what the subject of the sentence does.

Object: The object of the sentence receives the action. The action is done to it.
Every sentence may not have an object.

Identify the sentence parts:
Scruffy stole three muffins from he counter.

My sister yelled at Scruffy.

Scruffy was severely punishedmy mother scratched him behind the ears.

Active and Passive Sentences

Active sentences place the subject before the verb.

Ex: The subject is the actor that performs the verb.

Passive sentences reverse this order and place the verb before the real actor. The real object comes
before the verb and is treated as the grammatical subject. It gets the action performed on it. If the real
actor is in the sentences at all, it is after the verb and after the word by.

Ex: The verb is performed by the subject.
Ex: The pizza was demolished by the hungry students.

We avoid passive voice because it uses unnecessary words. It also creates confusion as to who or what is
doing the action in the sentence. The reader must go backwards in the sentence to find the real actor.
Unfortunately, we tend to use passive sentences in writing because we are used to hearing them.
Politicians and bosses use passive voice, sometimes to avoid blame by not revealing the actor of the action.

Ex: Your position has been terminated.

Appropriate passive sentences Passive sentences are useful when you want to emphasize the object of
the sentence or when you do not know the subject. Scientists use passive because the actor is unimportant
in experimentsthe actions and the objects of study are important, so they come first in the sentence.

Ex: The beaker was filled with the sodium nitrate.
Ex: Scruffy was injured.
Ex: The wallet was stolen.
Not all sentences can be passive

Only sentences that feature a transitive action verb as the main verb can become passive. This is because
transitive verbs must have a direct object to complete the thought.

Ex: My cat is sick.
Dr. Cochran entered the room.

Linking verbs cannot be passive.

Ex: I am hungry. Hungry is I??? NO!!!!!!!

Tense in Passive Voice Constructions is in the Helping Verb

The idea of passive is NOT about tense. But passive verbsjust like active verbs HAVE tense. The
tense is sown in the auxiliary (or helping) verb.. When you change from active to passive (or from passive
to active), keep the tense the same.

Verb Tense Active Voice Passive voice

Past Perfect Fido had bitten Spots butt. Spots butt had been bitten by Fido.
Simple Past Fido bit Spots butt Spots butt was bitten by Fido.
Present Perfect Fido has bitten Spots butt Spots butt has been bitten by Fido.
Simple Present Fido bites Spots butt is bitten by Fido.

Future will bite will be bitten
Future Perfect will have bit will have been bitten

Past Perfect Progressive Fido had been biting Spots butt. Spots butt had been being bitten by Fido.
Present Progressive is biting Spots butt is being bitten by
Future Progressive will have been biting will have been being bitten

Also keep the same mode:

Modals Fido can bite Spots butt can be bitten.
could bite could be bitten.
should bite should be bitten by Fido.
would have bite would have been bitten


ACTIVE PASSIVE
The minister had covered the nude statue The nude statue had been covered by the minister.
The minister covered the nude statue The nude statue was covered by the minister.
The minister has covered the statue The nude statue has been covered by the minister
The minister covers the nude statue is covered by the minister
is covering I is being covered by the minister
will cover will be covered by the minister
will have covered will have been covered by the minister
will be covering will be being covered by the minister

can cover can be covered by
could cover could be covered by
should cover should be covered
would have covered would have been covered