Unit 4.1

Agent in Passive Voice


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.

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.

  • Hamlet is written by William Shakespeare.
  • This beauty salon is run by a woman from New Zealand.
  • The house was affected by the earthquake.

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

However we use the agent when it is:

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


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