What is the passive voice of “they did not do the work”?

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    Dec 12, 2018 at 14:59

4 Answers 4


In such a sentence one is " Dummy Do", the meaningless one the support of which we seek in Simple Present and Simple past where there is no auxiliary or modal but the sentence is to be made negative or interrogative.

Ignore this first DO, the meaningless one, we call do support.

  • They ( did) NOT DO the work.

We know 'do support' embodies the tense and person of the finite verb. Thus deduced, the sentence is in simple past.

Let's make it passive.

  • The work was not done by them.

We know BE Verb in a sentence is conspicuous by its presence in the sense that it precedes the subject in questions and turns negative all by itself without support of any helping verb, irrespective of the fact that BE VERB is there either as a main verb or as an auxiliary.


The work was not done by them.

  • 4
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It is definitely:

The work wasn't done (by them).

We form the passive using the auxiliary "to be" + past participle. "by them" is optional since we usually focus on the action when we use the passive.

  • We form the passive using the auxiliary "to be" + "past pariticiple". (by them) is optional since we usually focus on the action when we use the passive.
    – Mossaab Cherai
    Dec 6, 2018 at 18:49
  • This should go in the answer :) You can edit and add your explanation.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 6, 2018 at 18:52
  • The other critical step you did not mention in converting between active and passive voice is swapping the subject and object of the verb. Dec 7, 2018 at 1:34
  • @Mossaab Cherai I have serious reservation to call the " to be " we use in passive voice an auxiliary; it is to my mind is THE MAIN VERB. : Follow its use in tense formation. Dec 7, 2018 at 16:38

The difference between "they did not do the work" and "the work was not done by them" is the latter does not convey that the work was not done, and implies someone else may have. The question that follows is "well who did it?"

I prefer a more specific choice of words to more clearly create the inference that the work was not done at all:

the work was overlooked (by them).

  • The OP asks about passive voice This is a purely grammatical question.
    – TonyK
    Dec 6, 2018 at 19:59
  • @TonyK my apologies, I erred in claiming my statement was active voice. Edited.
    – Harper
    Dec 6, 2018 at 21:11

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