The Passive

Updated: Sep 7, 2020


In the passive voice, the emphasis is placed on the receiver of an action (usually the object), rather than on the agent of the action (usually the subject).

Examples: The car was stolen; He is told; She has been killed



From active to passive voice:


In an active sentence, the subject of the verb is the person/ thing doing the action.

The object is the person/ thing that the verb happens to.

Example:

Élise (subject/agent) vend les fleurs (object).

Elise is selling the flowers.


An active sentence can be turned around to make a passive sentence, where the object becomes the subject of the passive verb.

Example:

Les fleurs (subject) sont vendues (passive verb) par Élise (agent).

The flowers are sold by Elise.


Note that often the agent is not even included in the passive sentence.

Example: Les fleurs sont vendues à 10 euros.



How to structure the passive voice:


In French, the passive voice is formed the same way as in English, where the verb to be is conjugated in the correct tense followed by the past participle.


Example: Elle est choisie - She is chosen


BE CAREFUL!

The past participle must agree with the subject of the passive verb.

The past participle must take:

-e for a feminine subject

-s for a plural subject

-es for a feminine plural subject


Note: When "on" means "we", the past participle can agree with the subject of the sentence.

To know more about "on", you can read this post.



Tenses with the passive:


Passive sentences can be written in any tense.

The tense of the passive is formed by the tense in which être is conjugated.


Examples:

Nous sommes aimés - we are loved (present tense)

Nous allons être aimés - we are going to be loved (near future)

Nous avons été aimés - we have been loved (perfect tense)

Nous étions aimés - we were loved (imperfect tense)

Nous serions aimés - we would be loved (conditional)

Nous serons aimés - we will be loved (future tense)

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Keep on reading to know something slightly more advanced about the passive.

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Instances where you cannot use the passive in French: