I have the following passive clause:

The money was stolen.

Is there any transformation of it into active voice? Or it will remain like this?


3 Answers 3


There are two types of passive clause:

  1. Short passive

    The money was stolen.

  2. Long passive

    The money was stolen by a short man wearing six jackets.

Most passives are short. They don't contain by-phrases.

Only long passives have corresponding active clauses:

  1. Short passive

    Passive: The money was stolen.
    Active: *Stole the money. 

    The active clause is ungrammatical. It needs a subject, but it doesn't have one.

  2. Long passive

    Passive: The money was stolen by a short man wearing six jackets.
    Active: A short man wearing six jackets stole the money.

    This active clause is fine. It needs a subject, and it has one.

Your example is a short passive, so it has no direct active clause equivalent. If you want to make it into an active clause, you'll need to add a by-phrase, turning it into a long passive.

You'll have to rely on context to figure out what by-phrase works in your clause, if any.

In this answer, the * symbol marks a sentence as ungrammatical. For more information about passives, see A Student's Introduction to English Grammar (2005), chapter 15.


If you make the transfer from passve to active or vice-versa, subject and object switch roles.


I (S) open the door (O). <-> The door (S) is opened by me (O).

In your example, there is only the subject "the money". In order to make the transformation, you need to "invent" an appropriate object, like "by someone" before you can switch to active:

Someone stole the money.

Now you have to decide for yourself wheter this sentence matches your specific needs or whether keeping the passive structure is the better choice.

  • @ASTPace: Because there is no need to use only past tense examples? Sometimes I deviate on purpose to have readers "trip" over this.
    – Stephie
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 16:18

One of the uses of the passive voice is to omit the subject, because it can be unknown or irrelevant.

If you want to convert the sentence into the active voice you should assume a subject, it can be a noun or a pronoun.

The money was stolen (by them).

They stole the money.

I supposed that the subject could be "they". But since the original sentence has no agent complement, you cannot convert exactly the sentence from passive voice to active voice, but you can always suppose a subject. A pronoun sounds to me more discreet, since it does not really reveal the subject identity.

  • Often the reason for using a passive is because you don't know or don't want to specify who performed the action. If you came in this morning and the money was gone, you might say, "The money was stolen" because you have no idea who took it. Even if you are pretty sure it was Fred Smith, you might not want to say, "Fred Smith stole the money" because you don't want to make accusations when you're not sure. And of course politicians love to use the passive to avoid take responsibility. Not, "I was caught breaking the law" but "Mistakes were made." :-)
    – Jay
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 19:43

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