Sometimes I see some sentences look like passive voice, but don't have a verb "to be". For example:

"The goals set in the initial phase of a project can heavily influence your work." --> I believe the goal cannot be set by itself, so it should be written as "The goals that are set in the initial phase of a project can...".

I have seen someone explained that: {past participle} + {noun} = {noun} that is {past participle}.

For example: The broken window - The window that is broken. When they eliminated "that is", they used "broken" as an adjective and placed it before a noun. I totally understand it. But in my example, it looks like they omitted "that are".

Another example is: "Responsive design refers to a design that can rearrange its elements depending on the device being used." --> I think it can be written as" Responsive design... on the device that is being used".

Is it okay to use passive voice without "to be"? Or use a past participle verb after a noun to describe it? Please explain to me. Thank you.

2 Answers 2


This structure is a form of reduced relative clause, and it's not specifically about the passive voice.

Generally speaking, if you have a relative clause with a "be" verb, you can elide the relative pronoun and the "be" verb:

The bird which is on the wire...
The bird on the wire...

The person who was sitting next to me...
The person sitting next to me...

My niece, who is an actor, loves horses.
My niece, an actor, loves horses.

The passive voice is mostly made with "be" verbs, so relative clauses with passive verbs are often reduced this way, as in your example.

The message that is constantly broadcast...
The message constantly broadcast...

  • 1
    I think it's potentially misleading to say that the passive voice is made with "be" verbs. For example, "I'll have your bags brought up by the porter" / "It looks like your bags got brought up by the porter" both genuinely involve passive clauses, but without "be".
    – BillJ
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 10:09
  • @BillJ Thanks, I've adjusted my answer
    – gotube
    Commented Oct 13, 2022 at 18:19

This isn't "the passive voice". But it is a past/passive participle.

There are two participle forms: the present (eg eating) and past (eaten). The past participle has a passive sense, and so the passive voice uses the past participle.

A noun can be modified by a participle. This might be a present/active participle:

A man eating an apple walked down the road.

The particular phrase "eating an apple" modifies the noun "man". You could also use a relative clause with the same meaning: "A man that was eating an apple..."

A noun can be modified by a past/passive participle:

The apple eaten by the man lay in the gutter.

And again you could rephrase with a relative clause "The apple that was eaten..."

But neither sentence uses the passive voice, because the main verb (walked, lay) is active in both sentence.

So don't think of this as "omitting 'that are'" But do think of this as an alternative phrasing that doesn't use "that".

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