How to change the following sentence from active to passive voice?

  • Paul married Lucy four years ago.
  • What do you think it is?
    – BillJ
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 11:52

2 Answers 2


That's an interesting question. Normally, a switch to the passive voice allows the subject in the active voice to be dropped. In the case of your example, this may give rise to an unwanted inference.

If the original used courted instead of married, you could drop the subject and change the tense of courted to produce

  • Lucy was courted four years ago.

However, doing the same with married to produce

  • Lucy was married four years ago.

gives the impression that Lucy is no longer married.

This is the case with other verbs of the same type. That is, where using the past perfect looks like applying an adjective.

Marry verb 1 Join in marriage. ‘I was married in church’ ‘my sister got married to a Welshman’ - ODO

Married adjective 1.1 (of a person) having a husband or wife. ‘a happily married man’ - ODO

You have the same phenomena with the word employ. Compare:

  • IBM employed him last year.
  • He was employed last year.

The way to get around it is to use the form in the second dictionary example above: got married:

  • Lucy got married four years ago.

The passive-voice equivalent of this sentence is:

Lucy was married to Paul four years ago.

A good way of remembering the difference between active and passive sentences is to think first about the sentence's main verb. Is it being done to the sentence's main subject, or is the main subject the person/thing doing it?

For example:

Joe gave Shelly a gift for her birthday.

Active. The main subject Joe is doing the verb (giving something to Shelly)

Shelly was given a gift by Joe for her birthday.

Passive. The main subject (now Shelly) is on the receiving end of the verb

  • based on your description I think it should be "Lucy was married to Paul four years ago.", and why did you use "to", original one don't have "to"
    – Shannak
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 11:37
  • Technically, it actually doesn't matter which name comes first. But to match your sentence it would be better to switch them, which I did. Good observation.
    – Rich
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 11:41
  • Do we need preposition "to" with passive voice?
    – Shannak
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 11:43
  • 1
    Also a good question. No, we don't always need a preposition (For ex. "Shelly was given a gift" = a grammatical passive-voice sentence). However, the first passive sentence in my example has a subject with an object - Lucy and Paul, and we need a proposition to link them. Hope this helps!
    – Rich
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 12:24
  • 1
    Good answer, although I think it should be "Shelly was given a gift by Joe."
    – stangdon
    Commented Feb 19, 2017 at 13:27

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