If we got this sentence

What did he do to solve this problem?

I think that its passive form is

What was done by him to solve this problem?

But my teacher said it was

What was done to solve this problem by him?

Which one is correct? I need help.

  • 1
    You are correct. Your teacher's version is not really idiomatic. It's marginal. Only if the speaker is postponing by him to the end of the sentence for some sort of special emphasis would we delay it like that. That said, there would rarely be a need to twist a perfectly simple active voice sentence into a passive like that. Do not get the wrong impression from your exercise books that native speakers are always using the passive. The passive has its purposes but is not always viable.
    – TimR
    Jan 10, 2019 at 12:50

2 Answers 2


Both versions given are grammatical. The prepositional phrase "by him" is acting as an adverb, and both "[verb] [adverb] [subordinate clause]" and "[verb] [subordinate clause] [adverb]" are valid. Yours is more idiomatic, partly because your teacher's version has a slight ambiguity.

The subordinate clause "to solve the problem" is of the form "[subordinating conjunction] [verb] [object]", and so "What was done to solve this problem by him?" could be interpreted with the adverb-phrase "by him" attached to the verb "to solve". This has a different meaning, in that "he" is the means of solution, but the agent of the solution (the person doing the things) is left unspecified. This disagrees with both the active form given and your suggested passive, wherein "he" is unambiguously the agent, and the means is not specified. Native speakers would be very unlikely to interpret the sentence that way, but the grammar permits it.


Grammatically yours is correct. The phrase "By him" doesn't usually come at the last especially in your sentence... According to me, What was done by him to solve this problem? is the correct passive voice form of What did he do to solve this problem?

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