Which is the right way to phrase "Who made this mess?" in the passive voice?

By whom were made this mess?


Who was this mess made by?

How should I write questions in passive voice?

  • Not sure what you mean by "right" in "the right way". Google ngram will show that "Who was this mess made by" would be a highly unusual way of asking this particular question. Who made this mess? is idiomatic.
    – TimR
    Oct 22, 2014 at 21:40
  • You shouldn't write these questions in the passive voice. But the passive could be appropriate if you want to emphasize the agent and present it as new information: "This mess was made by a hyperactive twelve-year-old pretending to be a bird."
    – user230
    Oct 23, 2014 at 0:05

2 Answers 2


Both This mess was made by who(m)?

and your second sentence Who was this mess made by? are correct.

Your first sentence is not grammatical. You can say By whom was this mess made?

  • By whom was this mess made, doesn't require the second by. I think that is the 'best' of the three phrases; I don't like putting 'by whom' at the end of the sentence, it's an odd construction (if perhaps legal).
    – Joe
    Oct 22, 2014 at 21:17
  • Thanks @Joe. I edited out the second by in that sentence.
    – user6951
    Oct 22, 2014 at 21:25

Who made this mess? We normally change such interrogative sentences in the passive voice in the following two ways:

1- Who was this mess made by?

2- By whom was this mess made?

As we know whom is not very often used in spoken English as compared to who that is more natural and common both in spoken and written English, I prefer the first sentence in spoken English and the second one in formal English.


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