Consider a sentence:

A document was shared with me.

Can I turn it into a sentence with Passive voice (me being a subject)? This doesn't sound right:

I was shared with a document.

Is this even possible?

  • Um, passive voice is formed like this: subject + finite form of to be + past participle. Where is "finite form of to be" in your sentence? Or what am I missing?
    – x-yuri
    Jun 24, 2017 at 7:34
  • 2
    Of course it is not possible.The clause you want to express in the passive voice is already in the passive voice! Jun 24, 2017 at 7:39
  • Well, I've missed that. But my point was to come up with a sentence that goes like this: I was shared ... a document. Like in, I was told...
    – x-yuri
    Jun 24, 2017 at 7:44
  • Or maybe, "I was shared a document" will do?
    – x-yuri
    Jun 24, 2017 at 9:26
  • 1
    I guess you are talking about ditransitive verbs. You may want to check this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ditransitive_verb
    – Cardinal
    Jun 24, 2017 at 10:05

1 Answer 1


As P. E. Dant says, your first sentence is in the passive voice. If it were in the active voice, it would look like this:

Someone shared a document with me.

The point about the passive voice is to emphasize the object more than the subject. This is especially typical when the subject is undefined, and the active voice would have a subject like someone or somebody. Consider this sentence:

A dinner was given in grandmother's honor.

Here, we don't care to explain who gave the dinner. Rather, the object—the dinner—is the important thing. Now, suppose we did care who gave the dinner. We might say this:

The company gave a dinner in grandmother's honor.

Now, we're in active voice. The company is the subject, and a dinner is the object. We could also say this:

A dinner was given by the company in grandmother's honor.

Whether we use the active or the passive voice in this situation is a matter of style. Most style guides advise not to use the passive voice in this situation.

Now, let's look at the question in your comment:

Is anything wrong with "I was shared a document"?

Yes, there is something wrong with it. Let's take this out of the passive voice:

Someone shared a document with me.

You can see that me is the indirect object rather than the direct object. This is because the verb share acts directly on document. Me is one step down the line, as the recipient of the document.

You can't mix indirect and direct objects; indirect objects must (with some exceptions, which we'll take up next) be included as a prepositional phrase: typically using to or for. So, let's look at how to change this into the passive voice:

A document was shared with me [by someone].

Now, this is further complicated because some verbs work with both the direct and the indirect objects so often that the preposition optionally drops out. When this happens, your construction is ok. Give is an example of this. Consider these sentences:

Someone gave me a document.
Someone gave a document to me.

Both of these sentences are equivalent in meaning. The first sentence is sort of an abbreviated form of the second, and has become regular usage. (The same is not true of shared; Someone shared me a document wouldn't be considered correct. If that sounds arbitrary, well, it is!)

So, either of these renderings into the passive voice are fine:

A document was given to me.
I was given a document.

But this is only true if, in the active voice, the preposition can be dropped for the indirect object, with the particular verb in question. If you become proficient in casting sentences back and forth between active and passive voice, it will help you determine which verbs you can use in this manner.

It will also help you to read the article on ditransitive verbs that Cardinal linked in his comment, which contains further explanation of the subject.

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