active sentences the subject is the 'doer' of the verb
(the person who makes the action happen)
The paparrazi chased the movie star.
passive sentences the 'doer' of the verb is not the
The movie star was chased by the paparazzi
(subject) (verb) ('doer')
use the passive in the following cases:
The main topic normally comes at the beginning of the
because it is more important what happened to the person
or thing than who/what does it, compare:
The police arrested Baldwin and charged him with
(main topic= the police)
Baldwin was arrested and charged with assault by
(main topic = Baldwin)
Notes: If the main topic is not the agent/ 'doer' of
the verb, we need to use the passive.
You can still include the agent in the sentence, using
The agent is unknown, unimportant or obvious
The photographs were stolen! (=we don't know
who did this)
Something must be done about it (= it's not important
who does this))
The photographer was chased and bitten by Clooney's
Vietnamese pot-bellied pig (= it's obvious who does
Sometimes we use the passive when the 'doer'/agent is
'people in general'
Spanish is spoken in twenty countries around the world.
(= it is not necessary to say 'by people')
· The following passive constructions are common
in formal contexts e.g.
It is claimed that........, It is believed that.......,
It is agreed that....
It has been proved that the new drug has already saved
hundreds of lives.
· The passive can sound formal, to make speech
sound more friendly and personal we can avoid the passive
using a subject like we, you, someone, they, or people.
Compare the following:
The town centre is going to be closed to traffic
(= perhaps from a newspaper)
Have you heard? They're going to close the town centre
(= in a conversation)
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