TOEFL IBT – Passive Voice

The passive voice is a way of writing in which you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence. It is used to show more interest in the person or object that experiences the action rather than the one that performs the action. To identify the passive voice, you need to have a form of to be or to have + past participle.

Grammar is an important part to master in order to improve your TOEFL score.

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  • The restaurant was invaded by rats. (more interested in the restaurant than the rats)
  • This mansion was built in 1743. (more interested in the mansion than who built it)
  • The door was left open. (more interested in the door than who left it open)

The passive voice will usually be used in more formal texts. Most writing is done in the active voice. We can use the passive voice along with the word by to say who performed an action, though it is better to do so in the active voice.

  • “Let It Be” was written by the Beatles. (The Beatles wrote “Let It Be”)
  • Our house was built by my contractor. (My contractor built our house)
  • The movie “Vertigo” was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. (Alfred Hitchcock directed “Vertigo)

You can also use the passive voice with infinitives.

  • You have to be tested in Spanish next year. (infinitive: to be)
  • I want to be remembered for the good I’ve done. (infinitive: to be)
  • She might be invited to the party. (infinitive: be)

Likewise, the passive voice can be used with gerunds.

  • They are excited about being taken to the movies. (gerund: being)
  • Only some dogs like being pampered. (gerund: being)
  • Why wouldn’t you like being interviewed? (gerund: being)

Don’t remember what an infinitive is? Or a gerund? Go check out our Gerunds & Infinitives study sheet!


  • Not every sentence that has have or be is in the passive voice!
  • The passive voice can also be formed with the verb to get.
    • I really need to get my hair cut.
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