"Little strokes fell great oaks." I think, it's passive voice is "Great oaks was fallen by little strokes."

Am I right ?

  • 6
    No. The original uses the verb fell (to chop / saw ... down) in the present tense, not fall in the past tense. Jun 5, 2015 at 10:19
  • Not, every sentence has a passive voice. I think this is similar but I am looking.
    – Abdur Rahman
    Jun 5, 2015 at 10:21
  • 3
    Nobody has explicitly mentioned that "great oaks" is plural, but "was fallen" is singular. Watch your subject/verb agreement.
    – phoog
    Jun 5, 2015 at 14:29

3 Answers 3


The word 'fell' in this case is the 3rd person plural present form of the verb 'to fell'. So it would be:

"Great oaks are felled by little strokes."

  • 1
    +1. First, second, and third person plural of the transitive verb 'to fell'. I fell the tree, you fell the tree, he/she/it fells the tree, they fell the tree, we fell the tree.
    – TimR
    Jun 5, 2015 at 10:31
  • Thanks - edited to give the correct version used in the sentence.
    – ssav
    Jun 5, 2015 at 10:38
  • 2
    Note to non-native speakers: "fell" is a pretty rare verb, rare enough that I've never actually heard "felled" before, and rare enough that there's a good chance native speakers will think you're making a mistake if you use it. It's used here because it sounds poetic, but in every-day writing I'd recommend using a more common verb like "chopped down". Jun 5, 2015 at 18:53
  • @BlueRaja: sorry, but "I've never heard "felled" before" brings out the pedant in me, so I searched. It's in King Lear, if you've never seen it you should, it's good ;-) Also a few times in the Bible. I was hoping to find some pop song that almost everyone must have heard, but I didn't come up with anything ubiquitous, so you have a point. Jun 6, 2015 at 14:41

The verb "to fall" has a past tense "fell". However, one can tell that the "fell" in the original sentence is not the past tense of "fall" because "fall" does not accept an object. The sentence "I fall apples" doesn't make sense. One could say "I fall on apples" but that requires a preposition which isn't in the original sentence.

Thus, the "fell" in the sentence must be the other verb "to fell." The passive voice version is therefore "to be felled by". The conjugated version in context is therefore "Great oaks are felled by little strokes."

  • +1 for the distinction between the intransitive "to fall" with the participial form "fallen", and the transitive "to fell" with the participle "felled". The fact that "fell" can be either the present tense of "to fell" or the past tense of "to fall" is as confusing as the similar lay/lie distinction. Jun 5, 2015 at 14:20

If you look at the Active voice, it says, "Little strokes fell Great oaks" and it is important that you take note of the verb, 'fell' indicating past tense. So, if the sentence was to be changed to the passive voice, it will be correct if you use the past participle of 'fall', that is, ''Great oaks were felled by little strokes".

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