Unit 4.2

Agent in Passive Voice

Syntax

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Introduction

The passive form expresses the idea of something or someone receiving an action or experiencing a particular event or effect. {see Passive Structure, B1 level}

Agent represents the person or a thing that performs the action, subject of an active sentence.

Form

The structure of the passive sentence is:
Passive clause + by + Agent

In passive sentences, we don’t necessary know who/what the agent is.

But if an agent is explicit, we insert by before him/her/it.

NOTE: We can transform the passive voice into an active voice, by putting the agent in the subject position.

Example

  • Hamlet is written by William Shakespeare.
  • This beauty salon is run by a woman from New Zealand.
  • The house was affected by the earthquake.
  • He was given a slap by his girlfriend.
  • The actors were applauded at the end of their performance by the audience.

Use

The majority of the passive sentences don’t have any agent.

However we use the agent when it is:

  1. An indefinite noun phrase;
  2. An unexpected inanimate noun;
  3. The proper name of an artist, inventor, discoverer, innovator.

Summary

Agent represents the person or a thing that performs the action and is the subject of an active sentence. The majority of the passive sentences don’t have any agent. However we use the agent when it is an indefinite noun phrase, an unexpected inanimate noun or the proper name of a widely known person.

The structure is: We form the passive voice with agents by adding the preposition by and the agent to the passive clause.

For example:
— “The task was completed by the intern.” = The task is the subject of the passive sentence, was completed is the passive verb and the intern is the agent.
♦ “The intern completed the task.” = The intern is the subject of the active sentence, therefore the agent.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.

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