Active voice to passive voice in Past Indefinite tense

This post helps you understand how to change the active voice to passive voice in Past Indefinite tense.

Present Indefinite tense definition: we use the Past Indefinite tense to refer to actions that happened in the past at a specific time in the past.

Examples:

  • The boss insulted me in that meeting.
  • The students played a prank on me in the last class.
  • She called me 15 times last night.
  • I got him a bike on his last birthday.

Active voice to passive voice in Past Indefinite tense

We use the passive voice in this tense when we want to focus on whom or what the action was acted upon in the past, not who performed the action. With changing the voice from active to passive, the sentence structure also changes.

  • They never invited me to their houses. (Active voice)
  • I was never invited to their houses by them. (Passive voice)

Note that in the active voice, the focus of the sentence is on the doer of the action: who performed the action (They). But in the passive voice, the focus has shifted to the receiver of the action: the object (me). Notice that we have added the doer (the original subject) of the action in the passive voice by using the preposition ‘by’ and changed it to an objective pronoun (Them) from a subjective pronoun (Them). It is not mandatory to do that at all; we generally don’t talk about the doer of the action in the passive voice.

Important points to note:

  • The doer of the action: the person who performs the action (original subject)
  • The receiver of the action: the person or thing that receives the action (original object)
  • The subject of the active voice is often not mentioned in the passive voice.
  • The object in the active voice becomes the subject in the passive voice. But it is originally the object (receiver) of the verb.

Examples of passive voice:

  • My bike was stolen last night.
  • We were told not to park the car in front of the building.
  • The students were allowed to use the calculator in the exam.
  • Mini was loved by everyone.  
  • I was called on the stage to participate in an activity.
  • Why was she fired from her previous job?
  • Where were you called to discuss the plan?
Active voice to passive voice in Past Indefinite tense
Active voice to passive voice in Past Indefinite tense

How to change active voice to passive voice in Past Indefinite tense?

Follow the following steps to change a sentence from the active voice into the passive voice in Past Indefinite tense:

  1. Identify the object in the active voice sentence and make it the subject of the passive voice sentence. If it is an objective pronoun, change it to a subjective pronoun.
  2. Use the helping verb ‘was/were’ according to the subject.
  3. Change the verb form from (V2), in affirmative, and (V1), in negative and interrogative, to past participle (V3).
  4. Add the modifier (if any).
  5. Add the past time marker (if any).
  6. Add the preposition ‘by’ and the doer of the action (subject). If the subject is a subjective pronoun, change it to an objective pronoun in the passive voice. 

(NOTE: The last step is optional as we generally don’t mention the doer of the action in the passive voice.)

Subjective pronounsObjective pronouns
Ime
Weus
Youyou
Hehim
Sheher
Theythem
Itit
Subjective and objective pronouns

Let’s study the structures of Past Indefinite tense in active voice and passive voice.

Affirmative sentences

Active voice:subject (doer) + V2 (past form) + object
Passive voice:subject + was/were + past participle (V3) + by + the doer (optional)

Please note that the object in the active voice becomes the subject in the passive voice. And the doer (original subject) is introduced after the preposition ‘by’. We usually don’t mention the doer of the action in the passive voice.

Examples:

  • Active: She slapped me in front of everyone.
  • Passive: I was slapped in front of everyone (by her).
  • Active: They fired me from the job.
  • Passive: I was fired from the job (by them).
  • Active: She slapped me in front of everyone.
  • Passive: I was slapped in front of everyone (by her).
  • Active: Jonny wrote the script.
  • Passive: The script was written (by Jonny).
  • Active: They kept it a secret.
  • Passive: It was kept a secret (by them).
  • Active: The police arrested the thieves last week.
  • Passive: The thieves were arrested last week.

NOTE: in most of the examples above, the doer of the action is not mentioned as we generally don’t focus on it in the passive voice. But you can always add it if you want to. We have inserted the doer in some sentences. Notice that they are within brackets.

Negative sentences

Active voice:subject (doer) + did not + V1 + object
Passive voice:subject + was/were + not + past participle (V3) + by + the doer (optional)

Examples:

  • Active: They did not cook our favorite food.
  • Passive: Our favorite food was not cooked (by them).
  • Active: Most people didn’t like his movies.
  • Passive: His movies were not liked by most people.
  • Active: He did not steal your money.
  • Passive: Your money was not stolen by him.
  • Active: They did not open the theatre.
  • Passive: The theatre was not opened.

Interrogative sentence:

Structure 1:

Active voice:Did + subject + V1 + object?
Passive voice:Was/were + subject + V3 (past participle) + by the doer (optional)?

Examples:

  • Active: Did she call you last night?
  • Passive: Were you called last night?
  • Active: Did they take him to the hospital?
  • Passive: Was he taken to the hospital?
  • Active: Did he invite you to the party?
  • Passive: Were you invited to the party?

Structure 2:

Active voice:WH question words + did + subject + V1 + object?
Passive voice:WH question words + was/were + subject + V3 (past participle) + by the doer (optional)?

WH question words: what, when, where, why, how

NOTE: in the interrogative sentence (especially the WH questions), we hardly ever add the doer of the action as we specifically ask about the object.

Examples:

  • Active: Did she not call you last night?
  • Passive: Were you not called last night (by her)?
  • Active: Did they not take him to the hospital?
  • Passive: Was he not taken to the hospital?
  • Active: What did you discuss in my absence?
  • Passive: What was discussed in my absence?
  • Active: How did you direct this scene?
  • Passive: How was this scene directed?
  • Active: Where did he shoot the movie?
  • Passive: Where was the movie shot?
  • Active: Why did the company hire him? He is good for nothing.
  • Passive: Why was he hired? He is good for nothing.
  • Active: When did he message you?
  • Passive: When were you messaged?

Note the speaker already knows about the doer of the action, Therefore, the speaker is not mentioning the doer in the passive as the focus is on the receiver of the action.

Interrogative negative sentence:

Structure 1:

Active voice:Did + subject + not + V1 + object?
Passive voice:Was/were + subject + not + V3 (past participle) + by the doer (optional)?

Structure 2:

Active voice:WH question words + did + subject + not + V1 + object?
Passive voice:WH question words + was/were + subject + not + V3 (past participle) + by the doer (optional)?

Examples:

  • Active: Did she not call you last night?
  • Passive: Were you not called last night?
  • Active: Did they not take him to the hospital?
  • Passive: Was he not taken to the hospital?
  • Active: What did you not discuss in my absence?
  • Passive: What was not discussed in my absence?
  • Active: Where did he not shoot the movie?
  • Passive: Where was the movie not shot?
  • Active: Why did the company not hire him? He is very skilled.
  • Passive: Why was he not hired? He is very skilled.
  • Active: When did he not call you?
  • Passive: When were you not called?

Practice set!

Change the following sentences into the passive voice:

  1. She called me last night.
  2. He said a lot of mean things to me in that meeting.
  3. We did not say anything to him.
  4. Why did you call me yesterday?
  5. What did you eat last night?
  6. They insulted me in that meeting.
  7. He phoned me 15 times last night.
  8. Did you just abuse me?

Answers:

  1. I was called by her last night.
  2. A lot of mean things were said to me in that meeting by him.
  3. Nothing was said to him by us.
  4. Why was I called yesterday by you?
  5. What was eaten last night by you?
  6. I was insulted in that meeting by them.
  7. I was phoned 15 times last night by him.
  8. Was I just abused by you?

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