English Grammar Basic Grammar and syntax

What is a passive sentence (with examples)

What is a passive sentence? (with examples)

A passive sentence is a sentence where the subject does not perform the action of the verb. In fact, in a passive sentence, the action of the verb is performed on the subject.

More Examples of Passive Sentences

Here are some more examples of passive sentences:

  • Anita was driven to the theatre.
    (In this example, Anita did not perform the action of the verb“to drive.“The action was done to her. She was the recipient of the action.)
  • Nowadays, black kites are protected.
    (The action is being done to the subject“black kites.“)
  • The olives are stoned and crushed in this room.
    (The actions are being done to the subject“the olives.“)

With a Passive Sentence, Use“By“to Show the Agent

In a passive sentence, the person or thing doing the action (the agent) is usually preceded by the word“by“. For example:

  • Anita was driven to the theater by Carla.
  • Nowadays, black kites are protected by law.
  • The olives are stoned and crushed in this room by my son.

The opposite of a passive sentence is an active sentence. In an active sentence. The subject performs the action of the verb.

What Does“Passive Voice“mean?

The verb in a passive sentence is said to be in the passive voice. Likewise, the verb in an active sentence is said to be in the active voice. For example:

  • The bed was made by Rachel.
    (In this passive sentence,“was made“is in the passive voice.)
  • Rachel made the bed.
    (In this active sentence,“made“is in the active voice.)

Why Should I Care About Passive Sentences?

Active sentences come in the form“A affected B“. Passive sentences, however, come in the form“B was affected by A“. As a result, active sentences are easier to read and are often shorter and more direct. Consequently, many companies instruct their staff to avoid the use of passive sentences. This practice is so common that many grammar checkers (either computer programs or real people) will suggest an active version of your passive sentence. However, if you prefer its passive version, stick with it.

Here are five good reasons to use passive sentences.

(Reason 1) Passive sentences are useful to avoid blame.

Passive sentences are quite useful if you’re trying not to spread the blame.

  • The document had been released into the public domain.
    (This passive sentence hides the blame.)

Mira la versión activa:

  • Jackie released the document into the public domain.

Here are some more examples that do not reveal who was responsible:

  • Bad advice was given.
    A serious failing in standing operating procedures had occurred.

(Reason 2) Passive sentences can show a neutral or objective tone.

  • It is anticipated that concessions will be offered by both parties.
    (This passive sentence expresses a neutral tone.)

(Reason 3) Passive sentences are appropriate when the doer of the action is unimportant, unknown, or obvious.

  • Pistachio nuts are grown in Iran.
    (The doer of the action (called“the agent“) is unimportant.)
  • His parade uniform was stolen.
    (The agent is unknown.)
  • The thief was arrested.
    (The agent is obvious. It’s the police.)

(Reason 4) Passive sentences allow you to put something you want to emphasize at the start of your sentence.

  • An estimated 258,000 people were injured in alcohol-related crashes.
    (The number of people is the focus of this sentence.)

(Reason 5) A passive construction allows you to use the same subject twice.

  • Martin crashed into the barrier and was tossed in the crowd.
    (In this sentence, the subject is“Martin.“The verb“crashed“is an active verb. It is followed by“was tossed,“which is a passive verb. This construction allows you to say two things about“Martin“in a natural and efficient way.)


Don’t be dogmatic about avoiding passive sentences because they can be useful for avoiding blame, showing a neutral tone, or focusing on the recipient of a verb’s action rather than the author.

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