Is the relationship between Active and Passive voice mutually exclusive? A sentence not being in Passive must be assumed as a sentence in Active voice?

I'm having a little bit of trouble with this kind of exercises, like for example:

Identify whether this sentence is in active or passive voice:

1. He arrived at his hotel at 4:30 pm.

I know this isn't in Passive voice, so is it correct to assume it is in Active voice?

Theorethically this verb "Arrive" is intransitive and doesn't require a direct object for it t make sense. The doer of the action (subject) is "He".

  • Right...I know the theory. However the theoric material I have access to (books, internet,etc) doesn't specify if the relationship between Active and Passive voice is mutually exclusive....That's my doubt. Jun 20, 2017 at 21:52
  • The passive is formed with transitive verbs only. An intransitive verb cannot be involved in a passive construction. Some verbs can be used in both transitive and intransitive constructions. Jun 20, 2017 at 22:46
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    @Tᴚoɯɐuo Not quite: there are prepositional passives like "This bed has been slept in". Jun 20, 2017 at 22:56
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    You might want to wait a day or two before accepting an answer. For why this is usually wise, even when you get a good answer right away, see here.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Jun 21, 2017 at 3:48
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    @Tᴚoɯɐuo The waters are muddy on their own, without our interference :) Jun 21, 2017 at 11:41

1 Answer 1


Passive voice in English is generally formed from a "be" verb (am, is, were, etc.) and the past participle. Your verb "arrived" has no "be" verb and so it is not the passive voice.

It is, if fact, the simple past tense, in the active voice. The past tense of the verb "arrive" is the same as the past participle. But this verb doesn't have an auxiliary verb (e.g. "have" arrived) and so it is a simple tense.

In the passive voice, the grammatical subject is the object of the action, so verbs that have no object cannot be put into the passive.

  • Right! Thanks! But is the relationship between Active and Passive voice mutually exclusive? Is it correct to assume it is in Active voice? (because it isn't Passive) Or is it the case this sentence is neither of them because of the lack of an aux verb and a direct object? Jun 20, 2017 at 22:06
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    @JoseLuisPachecoBoscán There are only two voices in English, so a clause must be either one or the other. If it isn't passive, it's active, and vice versa. Jun 20, 2017 at 22:08
  • Tysm to you and to everyone who replied! I needed to hear something like that, maybe it was my fault because I couldn't express my doubt directly. Jun 20, 2017 at 22:27
  • @JoseLuisPachecoBoscán You're welcome. One other thing: in English, doubt and question don't mean the same thing. The noun Doubt means a lack of confidence or belief in something. The noun Question means an interrogatory, a request for an answer. Jun 20, 2017 at 22:43
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    It's not quite true that only transitive verbs can be passivized: the oblique of a preposition phrase complement may be cast as passive subject if the semantics allow the oblique to be understood as Patient of the action: in some sense 'affected' by it. For instance: "This bed has been slept in." Jun 20, 2017 at 22:55

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