IELTS Writing: The Passive Voice - IELTS University (Singapore)

IELTS Writing: The Passive Voice

Writing in the passive voice is something that does not always come naturally to candidates. Unfortunately, it is an important aspect of formal essay and reports writing. If you are one of those people who is confused about the passive voice and its use, then read on to find out all you need to know about this difficult grammar topic.

What Is The Passive Voice?

The voice of any sentence can be active or passive.

Active Voice:

The subject of the sentence performs the action

e.g. She wrote the letter.

Passive Voice:

The subject receives the action

e.g. The letter was written.

The passive voice requires the verb ‘to be’ to be in the past participle form

For example, Susan made these cakes

These cakes were made by Susan

In effect, we have basically written the sentence backwards and placed more importance on the object of the sentence than the object.

In order to form the passive voice, you must be very familiar with the various forms of “to be

  • Am
  • Were
  • Is
  • Be
  • Are
  • Being
  • Was
  • Been

Let us look at an example of how we use “to be” with the verb “written”:

Product Name


Is written 

Will be written

Had been written 

Has been written

Was written

Can be written

Is going to be written

Was being written

Is being written 

Should be written

When Should You Use The Passive Voice?

We generally use the passive voice to talk about the opinion of others. For example. “it is believed by some...." , and we use the active voice when we want to convey (discuss) our own opinion. For example “I believe that.." Basically, it is used when you don’t want the reader to know who performed the action.

We also use these two different voices to show which noun we are giving more importance to, i.e. either the object of a sentence or the subject of a sentence.

Why Is Using The Passive Voice Important?

Using the passive voice is important for writing reports about processes. It indicates to the reader that the process is more important than the people who carry out the process. The passive voice is also used in more formal contexts and therefore it is essential to be able to use passive voice structures for any writing task that requires a formal response, such as reports, essays, and formal letters.

The passive voice is far too formal to use during the speaking test. During the speaking test you will mostly be using the active voice since it is more direct and it is easier to convey ideas and actions using the active voice.

As you can see the passive voice is not as commonly used as the active voice, but you should still be familiar with its usage to understand the listening and reading tests as well as when and how to use it during the IELTS writing test.

I hope that this article has helped shed more light on a complex grammar topic. If you have any further questions regarding the passive voice or any other IELTS related topic, feel free to ask me questions in the comments down below.