Restrictions of Active and Passive Voice: When to Use and when not

Here, you will learn 07 important restrictions on using Passive Voice. The Passive Voice Restrictions 1 to 7 are very important in Active and Passive Rules. You will also learn 4 restriction on using Active Voice. The four rules for noting using Active Voice are also highly important to learn.

We have learnt What is Active and Passive Voice? and Sentence Structure of Active and Passive voice of all tenses and time along with other important points in the previous step i.e (Step-74). You might have also learnt

  • All rules of Passive voice to use
    • Rule-1
    • Rule-2
    • Rule-3
    • Rule-4

Now lets learn the restriction on using the Passive Voice.

Restrictions on the use of the passive.

Passive Restriction-1

(a)  Intransitive verbs cannot be passivised as there is no object to come to the subject position. E.g.,

(a) He laughed heartily. (Sub+V2+Adverb)

There is no object there, only an adverb is there (laughed how?). If we change the sentence into (b), still then we cannot have a passive form, e.g.,

(b) He laughed a heartily laugh.

This sort of cognate object cannot go into the subject position.

Passive Restriction-2

(b) ‘ Stative ’ verbs which refer to mental states and not to actions usually have no passive  forms and no-ing forms. E.g.,

1. They have a nice house.

2.  My new shoes do not fit me.

3. That colour suits you.

4. Arun resembles his father.

5. Your brother lacks intelligence.

The verbs of these sentences cannot be passivised.

Passive Restriction-3

(c )       Some transitive verbs like get, have, let, like, suit, survive, resemble etc. are rarely used in the passive voice, e.g.,

  1. He got the first prize.

Passive Restriction-4

(d)       The passive voice of climb, eat, drink, fear etc. appears so absurd and artificial that they are not commonly used in the passive, e.g.,

  1. He climbed the tree. (The tree was climbed)
  2. We eat mangoes.(mangoes are eaten)

Passive Restriction-5

(e)         Sometimes verbs like was, blame, help  etc. cannot be passivised. In some cases they can, e.g.,

  1. Arun washed his hands.

The sentence cannot be passivised. But

2. The clothes have been washed.

3. He was blamed for his negligence.

4. They were helped by everyone.

These are all passive sentences.

Passive Restriction-6

(f) If the object is each other, one another, or a self-type pronoun, there cannot be a passive voice, e.g.,

1. Ram and Shyam helped each other.

(*Each other was helped by Ram and Shyam.)

2. I was myself in the mirror.

(*Myself was seen by me in the mirror.)

The passive sentences marked * are unacceptable.

Passive Restriction-7

(g)  Some phrasal verbs behave like transitive verb and can be passivised. Yet, there are some phrasal verbs which cannot be turned into the passive. E.g.,

1. She looked after the children well.—> The children were well looked after. But

2.The plane took off. —> No passive.

Restrictions on the use of the active voice

Active Voice Restriction-1

(a)        Some verbs are used in the passive form only. They do not have any active form.

  1. I was born in 1992.
  2. You are supposed to finish the lesson by tomorrow.
  3. The man was drowned.
  4. He was caught in a traffic jam.

(But the thief was caught can be turned into the active voice)

5. She is reputed to be a good teacher.

Active voice Restriction-2

(b)  Sometimes the active infinitive has a passive meaning.

1.      (a) You are not to blame.

            (b) You are not to be blamed.

2.       (a) There is a house to let.

            (b) There is a house to be let.

Active Voice Restriction-3

(C).      After some verbs the –ing form of another verb is more useful than the passive infinitive, e.g.,

1       (a)  The room needs cleaning. =

            (b)  The room needs to be cleaned.

Active Voice Restriction-4

(d)       Imperative sentences usually do not have the passive voice. Sometimes, we use let or be to turn them into passive. However, such passive sentences lose their imperativeness, e.g.,

  1.       Announce the results. —>Let the results be announced.
  2. Prepare (yourself) for the worst.—> Be prepared for the worst.

Get / Have – passive

Get / Have + Verb –en can work as a passive sentence, e.g. ,

01.       (a) He cut his hair.

            (b) He had his hair cut.

            (c.) He got his hair cut.

Obviously, in 56(b) and 56(c), he appointed somebody to cut his hair. But we cannot get a similar meaning in these sentences:

02.       He got hurt in the accident.

03.       We got delayed in a traffic jam.

Verbs like arrested, caught, confused, divorced, drunk, elected, engaged, killed, lost, married etc. follow ‘get’ in the passive voice as mentioned above.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top