I'm curious if the sentence below is in the passive voice and if the tense of the passive is correct.

The Pediatrician will want to see whether the grasp of your baby is being developed well.

If it is passive voice, is it possible to rearrange this sentence into the active voice?

  • 1
    To add to the good answers, many verbs can be both intransitive (not taking a direct object) and transitive (taking a direct object). Intransitive: An athlete's muscles develop with training. Transitive: Athletes develop their muscles with training. or Training develops an athlete's muscles. The passive is formed with the transitive verb.
    – TimR
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 16:39

3 Answers 3


It is hard to understand why the second clause of the sentence is in passive voice: maybe the context would make it clear. Does the baby have developmental issues, and needs help from a physiotherapist to develop its grasp?

When you turn an active voice sentence to passive voice, the subject of the active voice sentence (the doer, known as the agent in a passive voice sentence) does not appear in the passive voice sentence unless you add a by .. phrase. Your sentence does not have a by phrase, so we do not know who the agent is: the baby, the parent, a healthcare professional?

Fortunately, you can turn this particular sentence to active voice without specifying the agent, by making grasp the subject of the clause.

The Pediatrician will want to see whether the grasp of your baby is developing well.

or even..

The Pediatrician will want to see whether your baby's grasp is developing well.

  • An interesting answer. But if I use the passive voice, will it be a big mistake against english grammar?
    – trenccan
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 13:47
  • The sentence is grammatical with passive voice, but needlessly complicated. Complicated sentences are harder to understand. If there is no compelling reason to use passive voice (for example, to deliberately conceal the identity of the agent), don't use it.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 13:53

The passive voice is used in the final clause:

... being developed ...

If you need to put this into an active voice you could (after restructuring) use

... whether your baby is developing their grasp well.

However, the passive is preferred, as the baby doesn't actively develop their grasp. We don't want to suggest that a baby with a weak grasp isn't "trying hard enough". There is noting obvious that does the developing. When the actor is unclear, a passive sentence can be used.


Your sentence consists of two parts that in grammar-speak are called clauses. A clause is a unit of grammatical organization next below the sentence in rank and in traditional grammar said to consist of a subject and predicate. The subject of a sentence is who or what the sentence is talking about and the predicate is what the subject is doing or what is being done to it. A clause can also be viewed as a complete thought that can stand on its own in terms of its meaning (there is also something called dependent and independent clauses, but that's a topic for another discussion).

In a multi-clause sentence, which is what we have here, saying that a sentence is in the passive voice or in the active voice does not make a whole lot of sense since the concept of voice, in that case, can only be applied to each individual clause, not to the entire sentence.

The active voice describes a sentence (in the case of single-clause sentences) or clause where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. In passive-voice sentences or clauses, the subject is acted upon by the verb. Take a look at these two examples:

I am watching her. (active-voice sentence)

She is being watched by me. (passive-voice sentence)

Can you see the difference between the active voice and the passive voice? In the first sentence, the subject I is the doer of the action because I is the one who is doing the watching. In the second sentence, the subject now is she which is no longer the source of the action of watching. Instead, it's being passive with respect to the action because the action of watching is now being preformed on the subject. Let's now apply all that newly-gained knowledge to your sentence:

First clause: the pediatrician will want to see whether (active voice)

Second clause: the grasp of your baby is being developed well (passive voice)

If you want to turn the second clause, which is at the moment in the passive voice, into an active-voice one, you need to make the baby the doer of the action of developing its grasp:

your baby is developing its grasp well (active voice)

So, the entire sentence would now read like this:

The pediatrician will want to see whether your baby is developing its grasp well.

Whether or not it's a good sentence is a different thing, but this example does answer your question.

  • You are assuming that the baby is the agent (the doer). This is probably true, but it may be that the baby has some special condition where somebody else (maybe the parent or a physiotherapist) has to do special exercises with the baby to develop its grasp.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 12:36
  • Surely 'she is watching me'
    – Strawberry
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 13:13
  • 1
    @Strawberry, you are almost right. When you switch from active voice to passve, the subject (agent) is omitted or moves to a by clause at the end of the sentence, and the object (patient) moves to the front of the sentence. The verb is replaced by a be-verb and a past participle. The correct passive voice version of I am watching her is she is being watched by me.
    – JavaLatte
    Commented Jan 28, 2018 at 14:08

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