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Passive voice in French

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What is the passive form in French ? 

The passive form (French: la forme passive) is a transformation of the active phrase in which the subject of the active voice becomes complement.

In the passive sentence, the subject becomes the agent complement and the direct object of the active voice becomes the subject.

Examples VoiceTranslation 
Le garagiste répare la voiture.ActiveThe mechanic repairs the car.
La voiture est réparée par le garagiste.Passive The car has been repaired by the mechanic. 

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Recap: what is the active voice in French ? 

The active voice (French: voix active) presents the subject as agent of the action.


  • Le chat boit du lait(The cat is drinking milk) 
  • Julien a eu une bonne note(Julian had a good mark.)
  • Maman prépare une belle surprise(Mom is preparing a beautiful surprise.)

Formation of the active voice

The active voice is formed with the: subject + verb + direct object complement (COD). 

Le chat boit du lait
Juliena eu une bonne note 
Maman prépareune belle surprise

enlightenedDirect objects are sentence complements that receive the action of a transitive verb, with no intervening prepositions. 

Formation of the passive voice

The passive voice (French: voix passive) presents the subject as agent undergoing the action. By changing the voice of the sentence, therefore we present the same action, the same event, but in a different way. 

The passive voice is always made up of:

  • The auxiliary "être", which is conjugated according to the mote, the tense and agrees with the person and the number.
  • The past participle of the verb of the action.
  • The subject (agent) is introduced by "par"
Tenseactive voicepassive voice 
indicativej'aimeje suis aimé(e)
imperfectj'aimaisj'étais aimé(e)
past compoundj'ai aimé j'ai été aimé(e)
future simple j'aimeraije serai aimé(e)
present conditionalj'aimerais je serais aimé(e)
past conditionalj'aurais aiméj'aurais été aimé(e)
imperative aimesois aimé(e)


  • Du lait est bu par le chat(milk is being drunk by the cat.)
  • Une bonne note a été eu par Julien(a good mark have been got by Julian.)
  • Une belle surprise est préparée par maman(a good surprise is made by mom.) 

enlightenedYou use "de" to introduce the subject with verbs like: "aimer", "connaître", "respecter".

Tout le monde aime cette personne → Cette personne est aimée de tous (everyone loves this person) 

enlightenedYou cannot form the passive when the subject is a pronoun.

Use of the passive voice in French

You use the passive form to emphasize

  • The object of the verb instead of the subject
  • An event without mentioning the subject 
  • Inventions, laws 
the object of the verbla télévision a été inventée par John Bairdthe television has been invented by John Baird 
event le président Kennedy a été assassinéthe president Kennedy has been murdered
invention, lawsune loi a été votéea law just passed

Therefore the passive transformation is only possible with verbs that accept a direct object complement (transitive verbs).

It cannot be used in the passive voice when:

  • The verb of the sentence is an intransitive verb (tomber, courir, sourire, nager)
  • The verb of the sentence is built with a indirect complement

enlightenedSome verbs as conseiller, demander, dire, parler, permettre, répondre, appeler are not used in the passive voice

Substitutes for the passive 

  • Instead of using the passive, you can create active sentences with "on". Such constructions are very popular in colloquial French. 
  • Reflexive verbs are often used especially when the agent (subject) is not mentioned and when something is involved. 
  • A construction with se faire + infinitive can apply only to persons
  • The construction être l'objet de is typical of journalese
use Examples Translation 
active sentence with "on"on a décidé d'augmenter la TVAwe decided to increase the VTA
reflexive verbs le médicament se boit avec de l'eau the medicine is taken with water
se faire + infinitiveelle se fait offrir une bague she was offered a ring 
être l'objet de son arrestation sera l'objet de beaucoup de discussions his arrest will be the subject of much debate 

enlightenedKeep your motivation and test your knowledge about the passive form with our exercises! 


  1. Fill in the blank exercise for the passive voice in French
  2. Fill in the blank exercise for the active voice in French
  3. Fill in the blank exercise for the passive voice using reflexive verbs in French
  4. Drag and drop exercise about the passive voice in French

Fill in the blank exercise for the passive voice in French

Fill in the blank exercise for the active voice in French

Fill in the blank exercise for the passive voice using reflexive verbs in French

Drag and drop exercise about the passive voice in French

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