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What is Done to Something

Passive Voice

Use the passive voice to express that something is done to an object. The passive voice is especially useful in business situations when the focus is on the product, rather than the person who manufactures the product. The following structure is used for sentences in the passive voice.

Positive Form:

Passive Subject + to be (passive auxiliary) + Past Participle

Loans are taken out annually.

The balance was paid off in partial payment for the car loan.

Negative Form:

Passive Subject + to be (passive auxiliary) + Not + Past Participle

The commercial account hasn't been verified yet, so we don't know if we'll have work in a few months.

The subsidiary will not be used again in the future.

Question Form:

to be (passive auxiliary) + Passive Subject + Past Participle

Was the account payee Philip?

How often is the proxy vote used at your firm?

Notice that the verb 'to be' is conjugated. Be careful to use 'is' for singular objects and 'are' for plural objects in the present passive voice.

The Use of the Agent 'by' in the Passive Voice

In many cases, the person, company or agent of the action need not be included. This is especially true in general statements.

Oranges are grown in California.

In this case, it is understood that someone grows oranges in California. However, it is not important for the understanding of the sentence to include the agent.

Oranges are grown in California. (by someone)

In the case that it is important to know who or what performs the action in a passive sentence, use the preposition 'by'.

Computers are assembled by Lenovo.
This book was printed by Harper's.

In this case, the company that manufactures the objects is required information.

Passive Tense Comparison Chart

This chart shows passive conjugation for a variety of tenses.

Present Simple Passive

Has the document been approved by the title company?

When is the loan scheduled to depreciate?

Past Simple Passive

Was the collateral security demanded by the bankers against a commercial loan?

Was the dividend presentation prepared by Dan?

Future with 'Will' Passive

The market value will not be projected anymore from now on.

All after-hours trading will be done by the vice president.

Present Perfect Passive

The take-over bid has been rejected twice.

The warehouse hasn't been used for months.