TNs, U68: Verbs: Passive Voice (Construction & Uses, Passive PC)
The most common grammatical voice is the active voice, which describes a clause whose subject is also the agent of the verb in the clause. For instance, when "Hugo throws a ball", Hugo is both the subject of the clause and the agent that performs the verb.
On the other hand, the passive voice describes any clause where the subject is not the agent of the verb in the clause. For instance, when "The ball is thrown by Hugo", the subject ("the ball") is actually the direct object of the action. The passive voice in both English and French is constructed using the auxiliary "to be" and the past participle of the action verb. The past participle must agree with the subject here.
- L'ennemie est battue. — The enemy is beaten.
- Le pain est mangé. — The bread is being eaten.
- La balle est lancée par Hugo. — The ball is thrown by Hugo.
- C'est fait par ordinateur. — It is done by computer.
Notice that the agent of a verb in the passive voice can be introduced by the preposition par ("by"). However, you can also use de with verbs expressing emotions or feelings, like aimer or respecter.
- La princesse est aimée de ses amis. — The princess is loved by her friends.
- Je suis respecté des citoyens. — I am respected by the citizens.
- Le magicien est adoré des enfants. — The magician is loved by children.
- La grand-mère est entourée de sa famille. — The grandmother is surrounded by her family.
The passive voice is useful for emphasizing a verb's object or avoiding naming a verb's agent.
- Tout est fait par ordinateur ces temps-ci. — Everything is done by computer these days.
- L'histoire était oubliée. — The tale was forgotten.
- L'histoire n'est pas écrite à l'avance. — History is not written in advance.
- Le travail est loin d'être terminé. — The work is far from being finished.
However, Francophones often avoid the passive voice by using the imprecise pronoun on in the active voice.
- On fait tout avec des ordinateurs. — We/They do everything with computers.
- On oublie souvent les règles. — We often forget the rules.
- On va mener une étude. — We/They will conduct a study.
- On est en train de perdre du temps. — We are wasting time.
The Passive Passé Composé
Remember that when multiple verbs are combined in a single construct, only the first verb can be conjugated; any following verbs must be infinitives or participles. When using the passive voice in the passé composé (or another compound tense), être takes avoir as an auxiliary. Thus, avoir must be conjugated, followed by être and the action verb in past participle form.
- Cette lettre a été lue par mon père. — That letter has been read by my father.
- Ce chat a été adopté par des gens gentils. — That cat was adopted by some nice people.
- Deux rapports ont été demandés. — Two reports have been requested.
- Tes valises ont été mises devant. — Your suitcases were put in front.
Note that the past participle of the action verb still must agree with the subject (as usual for être verbs).
Also note that être is intransitive and cannot have a direct object, so its past participle été is always invariable.
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