Please help me change these samples from active voice to passive voice, if it is possible to construct passive from these. 1-My cat died.2-A great thing happened yesterday.3-His tricks will not fool me.

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[eNotes Editors may address only two (maybe three) samples in this sort of Question with a list of assignment samples. My instruction uses a couple of your samples plus others, so you should be able to tackle your other samples happily after this.]

You might say there are two sets of rules for forming passive voice. The first set applies to sentences with both Subject and Object. To make passive voice here, the Subject (doer) moves to the Object (recipient) slot and follows the preposition {by}: by the dog, by the mailman, by the FEDEX lady, etc.

The second set applies to sentences with no Object or no known Subject. "My cat died" has no Object: my cat (Subject) died (Verb). "Tag him" has no known Subject, it's "someone" who tagged "him": tag (Verb) him (Object).

In "My cat died," passive is formed without the existence of a filler in the original sentence Object slot. Passive: Dead is my cat. This passive construction is not one that is generally grammatically acceptable but may be grammatically acceptable if you want rhetorical effect. You have changed the Standard SVO order for a rhetorical OVS order (Object Verb Subject).

In "Tag him,", passive is formed without a doer in the Object slot. Passive: He is tagged [by whom? is omitted]. The governing rules for both sets are:

  • (1) the main verb is augmented by a {be} auxiliary verb of any tense {is, was, were, has been, etc}.
  • (2) the main verb is in the regular past participle -ed form (climbed) or its irregular past participle form (sang).
  • (3) the doer in the passive Object slot follows {by}.

Subject + be auxiliary + -ed past participle main verb + by + Object

In "A great thing happened yesterday," {yesterday} is an adverbial of time therefore not part of a passive formation rule. Passive formation is hindered because {happen} is intransitive: it does not take an object. You might construct a passive as follows with subject + be auxiliary {is/was} + -ed past participle: It is/was a great thing that happened (yesterday). The successfulness of this suggested construction is debatable though grammatically acceptable.

Yet you surely cannot construct a correct English passive sentence as: It is happened a great thing (yesterday).  Another thing not debatable is that {is happened, are happened, were happened, was happened, will happened, had been being happened, etc} are all completely unacceptable.

The things to remember about passive voice construction are that the doer becomes the recipient (if there is a known doer) filling the passive Object slot; the recipient becomes the doer filling the Subject slot; the main verb is accompanied by a {be} auxiliary verb of any tense; the Object filler follows {by}.

Active: His tricks will not fool me. Passive: I will not be fooled by his tricks.

  • Known doer:
  • recipient fills Subject, {I} from {me} + {be} auxiliary {will} + main verb -ed participle {fooled} + {by} + doer fills Object {his tricks}.

Active: Someone cut my roses. Passive: My roses are/were cut.

  • Unknown doer:
  • recipient fills Subject, {my roses} + {be} auxiliary {are/were} + main verb irregular past participle {cut} + unknown doer, omitted Object slot [alternatively: {by someone} {by} + "someone" fills Object slot].

Additionally, {for}, indicating purpose, and {with}, indicating thing instead of doer, may replace {by} in passive construction.

  • recipient Subject + be auxiliary + -ed past participle + by/with/for + doer/thing/purpose Object.
  • The roses were cut with the shears (thing).
  • The music was played for the audience (purpose).
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