Learning the Voices in Easy Steps, Day 1

A sentence like “John has done the work” can be expressed in this way too — “The work has been done by John”. There is almost no difference in the meanings, but there is difference in emphasis. In the first sentence, emphasis is put upon the doer of the action i.e. “John” (meaning none but John has done the work). In the second sentence, emphasis is put upon “the work” (emphasis is on the completion of the work rather than on the doer of the action). In this sentence we can do away with “John” as such “The work has been done”. So, let me tell you the grammatical terms associated with each type of sentences. The first type of sentence is said to be in the Active Voice and the second type of sentence is said to be in the Passive Voice.

How can we identify a sentence in the Passive Voice easily? Remember this structure — S+am/is/are/was/were/be/been/being+Past Participle

Sentences in the above structure can be identified as in the Passive Voice, otherwise it’s in the Active Voice.

Remember that certain kinds of sentences can’t be changed into the other voice form, particularly sentences having intransitive verbs. “I slept well” or “She is a girl”, ” He was born in London” are such sentences.

Now, lets come to identifying the Subject, Object, Complement in a sentence. To identify these, you have to identify the Verb(s) first. Then ask the following questions using the Wh- words and the Verb(s) :

Who <Verb> ? : Subject

Whom <Verb> ? : Object-1 (Indirect Object)

What <Verb> ? : Object-2 (Direct Object)

How <Verb> ? : Complement

Where <Verb> ? : Complement

When <Verb> ? : Complement

Why <Verb> ? : Complement

Let’s take a sentence for example, “I offered the beggar a blanket sympathetically at my home yesterday because he was shivering in cold.”

Who <offered> ? : I (Sub.)

Whom <offered> ? : the beggar (Obj.-1)

What <offered> ? : a blanket (Obj.-2)

How <offered> ? : sympathetically (Com.)

Where <offered> ? : at my home (Com.)

When <offered> ? : yesterday (Com.)

Why <offered> ? : because he was shivering in cold ( Com.)

Only after identifying the Subject, Verb, Object and Complement can we proceed towards changing of voice. Before that we should keep in mind the following points :

(1) The Subject and the Object change positions with each other.

(2) The pronouns change from Subjective Case (I, we, you, he, she etc) to Nominative Case (me, us, you, him, her) and vice versa.

(3) There may or may not be Auxiliary Verb(s) and Past Participle form of Main Verb in Active Voice. But a Passive Voice sentence must have these two things.

(4) Words like not, never, ever, just, already, still etc remain attached to the Auxiliary Verb.

(5) Prepositions remain attached to the Main Verb.

(6) In Passive Voice form, the proposition ‘by’ is generally used before the Subject. Though other propositions like to, at, with are used in case of certain verbs such as ‘know’, ‘satisfy’, ‘please’, ‘vex’, ‘annoy’ etc.

(7) Complements never change their position. It can be anywhere in the semtence. In Passive Voice it should be left in the same position.

An example to understand this better –

Act. :- Mr Peters teaches English well.

Pass. :- English is taught by Mr Peters well.

In the Active Voice sentence, there is no Auxiliary, but the Passive Voice sentence has (‘is’). In the A.V. sentence ‘teaches’ is not a Past Participle form, but in the P.V. sentence ‘taught’ is a Past Participle form. The Subject ‘Mr Peters’ and the Object ‘English’ change positions with each other. The Complement ‘well’ (How <teaches> ?) remains in the same position. That’s all for today. The remaining part of the tutorial will be posted subsequently. Keep visiting and give feedback in the comments box below.