The question is really simple, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to convert this sentence from active voice to passive voice, or at least to a natural-sounding paraphrase 'depersonalised' to the extent that the inanimate object becomes the subject.

The sentence:

He has money.

I am able to convert other similar sentences such as -

  1. "He has my apple." -> "My apple is with him."
  2. "He has the money." -> "The money is with him."

P.S. I assure you this is not a homework question. I am someone who writes computer software for a living. I heard this question somewhere and it is driving me crazy!!

  • 3
    Those aren’t passive constructions, just completely different sentences. “My apple is with him” is every bit as active as “He has my apple”. The passivised form of “He has my apple” would be “My apple is had by him”, which is of questionable grammaticality – have in the sense of ownership is very rarely passivised. May 26, 2019 at 14:55
  • 2
    "Is" is neither active nor passive, and it's certainly not a passive form of a different verb. You can convert sentences with "had" to the passive, but the result is not idiomatic (with a few exceptions such as "a good time was had by all"). I answered this same basic question on ELL here.
    – Laurel
    May 26, 2019 at 14:57
  • 1
    Can you tell us why you want to convert this sentence to the passive?
    – Shoe
    May 26, 2019 at 14:59
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Why is this marked ungrammatical? "A new CD player was wanted by Ed." containing "De Mattia-Viviès (www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/res/article/download/4578/3914) states that famous grammars (ACGEL, CGEL) postulate 'a closed category of verbs or verbal phrases, which are most of the time transitive verbs used statively, or stative verbs, which do not occur in the passive': resemble/look like ... someone ; suit/fit/become ; have /possess/lack ..." May 26, 2019 at 15:52
  • 1
    The fact that we can’t passivise is a lexical property of “have”. A similar resistance to passivisation occurs with "want" in examples like "They want Ed to stand for election" ~ *"Ed is wanted to stand for election".
    – BillJ
    May 26, 2019 at 17:41

1 Answer 1


If you change the verb then you won't have the passive voice of that specific sentence. In fact, "is" is neither active nor passive; it is a true linking verb. You can freely switch the sides without changing the verb (although the result here sounds a little antiquated):

  • My apple is with him.
  • With him is my apple.

There's a formula (so to speak) to switching from active to passive. It can be used on any active sentence, but the resulting passive voice sentence is not always idiomatic (and it's sometimes so bad as to be unintelligible).

The sentence "money is had by him" is the passive voice equivalent of the sentence, but it is not idiomatic. In this case, it's this particular use of the verb that causes the problem but there are other reasons why the passive might not work.

However, I will note that there are other uses of "have" that are idiomatic in the passive, such as the cliché "a good time was had by all".

For more information on this, see the book On Voice in the English Verb.

(Copied mostly from my answer at ELL.)

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