What's the passive voice of "get rid of"? I want to change below sentences into passive voice but seems I can't make it properly..... Or any other alternative words can be used, Thanks!

1) Mary got rid of the stalker. (Passive voice should be: The stalker............ Mary.????)

2) Messi gets rid of the defenders easily and scores with his weak foot. (The defenders were.....????)


2 Answers 2


A passive construction emphasizes the person or thing which recieves the action of the verb, and de-emphasizes or even hides the agent (or actor) the person or thing that perfumes/does the action of the verb.

A passive sentence is normally constructed by placing first the person or thing which receives the action (here "the stalkers" or "the defenders"). This is followed by a conjugated form of the verb "to be" appropriate to the desired tense, which is followed by a past participle (here "gotten rid of" ) and an optional prepositional phrase, usually starting with "by".


The stalker was gotten rid of by Mary.


The stalker was gotten rid of.

"The stalker" was the object in the active form, and is now the subject. "the stalker" is what receives the action, here what is gotten rid of. "was" is a form of "to be". "gotten rid of" is a past participle of a verbal phrase "get rid of". "by Mary" is the optional prepositional phrase. If present, it tells who did the action. Mary is the agent here. (Sometimes also called "the actor" or "the performer".)

Many people advise against the use of the passive voice. It is seed to be weaker, more wordy, and generally poor writing. It can be all of those. But it can also be good writing.

The passive voice is used to emphasize the receiver of the action and decrease the importance of, or leave implicit, the agent. It is common, even required, in formal scientific writing, because that is supposed to be about what was done, not who did it. ("The testtube was opened" not "I opened the testtube".) It is properly used whenever the receiver is the point of the sentence, and the actor is incidental or unimportant.

The passive voice can be dishonestly used to obscure the agent. ("Many people were killed in the battle" rather than "Our army killed many people during the battle".) But when the agent is clear from context and the current focus should be on the receiver of the action (sometimes called "the patient" in older usage, a helpful term in this kind of analysis), then using passive voice can improve the writing.

Sentence 2 from the question:

Messi gets rid of the defenders easily and scores with his weak foot.

is a poor choice for the passive voice, because the emphasis is all on the actor, Messi , and the patient ("the defenders") is almost incidental. A passive construction would distort this.


The defenders were easily gotten rid of by Messi (not sure what „scored with his left foot means): passive

Messi easily got rid of the defenders. Active.

Avoid using the passive voice because it is poor style unless 1) the actor is unknown, or 2) you intentionally do not want to mention the actor.

Apart from the above exceptions, the passive is awkward, and wordy and less immediately clear in meaning.

  • Sentence 2 (with the left foot) is clearly about football (soccer, if you're in the U.S.). Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 20:46
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    There is NO reason to avoid passive voice. It is NOT poor style. Sometimes it is the best choice. Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 21:30
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    This an oversimplification at best. The passive voice is often used in poor writing, and if one doesn't understand when to use it, one might do better to avoid it. But it is used ins ome very good writing. Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 21:39
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    @DavidSiegel It's used in both poor writing and very good writing because literally all English speakers use it constantly. If someone were both capable of identifying passives and made a serious effort to never use them, their English would be bizarre and unnatural. It's no different from calling the past tense poor style because it's awkward to hear it when the present tense is more appropriate. Sure, you shouldn't use passives when they're inappropriate, and you shouldn't use the past tense when it's inappropriate, but you can't eradicate either of them and still speak English.
    – user230
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 8:26
  • @snailboat I must disagree. The passive voice seems specially prone to misuse, it frequently figures in dishonest writing. Avoiding passive forms would be an effort out of proportion to the benefits, and would forgo some very useful constructions. i don't advise it. But the English wouldn't be bizarre, and indeed most readers wouldn't notice anything odd about it if it were not pointed out. If you really want i'll take a passage from a novel, say a couple of pages, and de-passive it as an exercise. I doubt it would be obtrusive, although i also doubt it would be an improvement. Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 15:13

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