I was learning about ACTIVE and PASSIVE sentences and came across this particular example. I know a sentence is said to be Active when the subject of the particular sentence performs the action. For example, "The hunter killed an antelope." In the Passive form it will be "An antelope was killed by the hunter." A sentence becomes Passive when the action is acted upon the subject, and the subject becomes the receiver of the action like the second example I gave.

The book also said that the passive voice is use to express an action in which the actor is unknown, and gave this example "The food had been eaten before we came." What I'm confused about here is that, passive voice contains the preposition "by" which is preceded by the subject, but in this case, there was nothing like that, and I want to know if it's a valid one.

  • If you're a Learner, check out English Language Learners Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 19:24
  • Note that 'An antelope was killed' is in the passive voice and is a totally acceptable sentence. If you're asked to convert this to a sentence in the active voice, you have to introduce the weasel subject 'Someone killed an antelope' (or it could possibly be 'A lion / fire / meteorite ... killed an antelope). Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 20:39

1 Answer 1


You don't have to specify the agent (the person making the action) in the passive voice unless you want to.

"The food had been eaten before we arrived" suggests that the writer either didn't know who had eaten it or didn't think it was necessary to say who had eaten it. The important point is that the food was gone. "The food had been eaten by the children before we arrived" makes it clear who was to blame for there being no more food.

  • Michael, your explanation is very explicit to me. It has cleared all my doubt about that sentence. I really appreciate it. Commented Aug 29, 2019 at 15:34

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