Active and Passive Voice

Sentences can be active or passive. Therefore, tenses also have “active forms” and “passive forms.” You must learn to recognize the difference to successfully speak English.

Active Form

In active sentences, the thing doing the action is the subject of the sentence and the thing receiving the action is the object. Most sentences are active.

[Thing doing action] + [verb] + [thing receiving action]

Examples:

Passive Form

In passive sentences, the thing receiving the action is the subject of the sentence and the thing doing the action is optionally included near the end of the sentence. You can use the passive form if you think that the thing receiving the action is more important or should be emphasized. You can also use the passive form if you do not know who is doing the action or if you do not want to mention who is doing the action.

[Thing receiving action] + [be] + [past participle of verb] + [by] + [thing doing action]

Examples:

Active / Passive Overview

Active Passive
Simple Present
Once a week, Tom cleans the house.
Once a week, the house is cleaned by Tom.
Present Continuous
Right now, Sarah is writing the letter.
Right now, the letter is being written by Sarah.
Simple Past
Sam repaired the car.
The car was repaired by Sam.
Past Continuous
The salesman was helping the customer when the thief came into the store.
The customer was being helped by the salesman when the thief came into the store.
Present Perfect
Many tourists have visited that castle.
That castle has been visited by many tourists.
Present Perfect Continuous
Recently, John has been doing the work.
Recently, the work has been being done by John.
Past Perfect
George had repaired many cars before he received his mechanic’s license.
Many cars had been repaired by George before he received his mechanic’s license.
Past Perfect Continuous
Chef Jones had been preparing the restaurant’s fantastic dinners for two years before he moved to Paris.
The restaurant’s fantastic dinners had been being prepared by Chef Jones for two years before he moved to Paris.
Simple Future
will
Someone will finish the work by 5:00 PM.
The work will be finished by 5:00 PM.
Simple Future
be going to
Sally is going to make a beautiful dinner tonight.
A beautiful dinner is going to be made by Sally tonight.
Future Continuous
will
At 8:00 PM tonight, John will be washing the dishes.
At 8:00 PM tonight, the dishes will be being washed by John.
Future Continuous
be going to
At 8:00 PM tonight, John is going to be washing the dishes.
At 8:00 PM tonight, the dishes are going to be being washed by John.
Future Perfect
will
They will have completed the project before the deadline.
The project will have been completed before the deadline.
Future Perfect
be going to
They are going to have completed the project before the deadline.
The project is going to have been completed before the deadline.
Future Perfect Continuous
will
The famous artist will have been painting the mural for over six months by the time it is finished.
The mural will have been being painted by the famous artist for over six months by the time it is finished.
Future Perfect Continuous
be going to
The famous artist is going to have been painting the mural for over six months by the time it is finished.
The mural is going to have been being painted by the famous artist for over six months by the time it is finished.
Used to
Jerry used to pay the bills.
The bills used to be paid by Jerry.
Would Always
My mother would always make the pies.
The pies would always be made by my mother.
Future in the Past
Would
I knew John would finish the work by 5:00 PM.
I knew the work would be finished by 5:00 PM.
Future in the Past
Was Going to
I thought Sally was going to make a beautiful dinner tonight.
I thought a beautiful dinner was going to be made by Sally tonight.
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Grammatical tense

In grammar, tense is a category that locates a situation in time, to indicate when the situation takes place.Tense is the grammaticalisation of time reference, often using three basic categories of “before now”, i.e. the past; “now”, i.e. the present; and “after now”, i.e. the future. The “unmarked” reference for tense is the temporal distance from the time of utterance, the “here-and-now”, this being absolute tense. Relative tense indicates temporal distance from a point of time established in the discourse that is not the present, i.e. reference to a point in the past or future, such as the future-in-future, or the future of the future (at some time in the future after the reference point, which is in the future) and future-in-past or future of the past (at some time after a point in the past, with the reference point being a point in the past).

Not all languages grammaticalise tense, and those that do differ in their grammaticalisation thereof. Languages without tense are called tenseless languages and include Burmese, Dyirbal and Chinese. Not all grammaticalise the three-way system of past–present–future. For example, some two-tense languages such as English and Japanese express past and non-past, this latter covering both present and future in one verb form, whereas others such as Greenlandic and Quechua have future and non-future. Four-tense languages make finer distinctions either in the past (e.g. remote vs. recent past), or the future (e.g. near vs. remote future). The six-tense language Kalaw Lagaw Ya of Australia has the remote past, the recent past, the today past, the present, the today/near future and the remote future. The differences between such finer distinctions are the distance on the timeline between the temporal reference points from the present.