Passive Voice Blues

In the English classes I’ve taught, and there have been many of them over the years, students have generally struggled over the English usage of [tag]the passive voice[/tag].  If, say, I write an active sentence on the board and ask the class to turn it into the passive voice, what I’ll usually get is a past tense sentence.

For instance, change this to passive:  “I eat hamburgers everyday.”

What’s your solution?


Here’s what many students would write: “I ate hamburgers everyday.”

Wrong!

The passive voice is a construction that requires a reversal of sentence order, so that the object becomes the subject and the verb is made passive, like this:  “Hamburgers are eaten by me everyday.”  In other words, something happens to something rather than someone does something.

Now, few of us would ever talk like that, much less write like that, but that’s a perfect example of the passive construction.  Remember, a passive verb needs a form of “to be” with it, hence “are eaten by me.”

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