I am confused how to use active and passive voice. Please help me with the sentences below.

Source states

Since the new market opened, I have done my shopping there.

My question is how can a market open itself? It should be opened by someone.

  1. Is it a noun phrase?
  2. If not, I feel it should be rephrased as follows. Am I right?

Since the new market was opened, I have done my shopping there.

3 Answers 3


I see nothing incorrect about the first sentence. 

The verb "to open" has both transitive and intransitive uses.  In the intransitive use, the semantic patient or theme is represented by the subject.  In the transitive use, the patient or theme is represented by the direct object of an active-voice statement.  The subject of such a statement represents the semantic actor or agent

Only the transitive use allows a passive-voice construction.  For example, we can transform 

The owner opened the market. 


The market was opened [by the owner]. 

Regarding this passive voice transformation, the following are true: 

  • the object of the active voice is the subject of the passive 
  • the agent of the passive voice is grammatically optional, and can be supplied by a prepositional phrase (as an adjunct rather than an argument) 
  • the existence of that agent is still implied, even in the absence of an identifying adjunct 

That is to say, "the market was opened" means that someone or something opened the market. 

Such constructions are perfectly valid and ordinary.  They are grammatically sound.  They are common. 

Of course, that doesn't mean that they are the correct response to any given exercise or test question.  For instance, if your example is one wrong choice for a multiple-choice question, then the reason it is the wrong choice depends on the full content and context of that question. 

It is very difficult to answer a question that hasn't been asked. 

  • I have completely re-edited question for better understanding. My question is how can a market open itself? Someone has to open it.
    – ARYF
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 4:45

To re-write your sentence correctly, you should also replace the passive "have done" with "do", so the correct non-passive sentence will read:

"Since the new market opened, I do my shopping there."

In general, it is better to always avoid passive voice in writing. The reason for this is that passive voice sentences are less clear in meaning; a passive voice sentence often doesn't specify clearly who is performing the verb. Passive voice also require using more words for the same meaning in a sentence

Another example sentence that displays this clarity/word-length issue:

Active: "John picked up the rock."

Passive1: "The rock was picked up."

Passive2: "The rock was picked up by John."

Active and Passive1 both use the same number of words, but in Passive1 we don't know who picked up the rock.

Active and Passive2 have the same meaning, but passive2 is two words longer and makes it harder to determine if the noun of the sentence is "rock" or "John".

Passive voice in general is almost never the "best" way to write sentences. The following link shows some examples of when passive voice is acceptable, but most of the examples of acceptable passive voice shown are due to the writer not caring if they communicate the specific noun/cause of an verb/action in a sentence.


Humorous note: I forced myself to review my answer multiple times in an attempt to remove all passive sentences from my answer. Passive voice occurs often in modern English, so even though it is not the best way to structure sentences or communicate, it is still extremely common.

  • 1
    'In general, it is better to always avoid passive voice in writing.' Note that the passive voice is much more common in British English than American English. If you want something to sound idiomatic to a British person, then use of the passive voice (but not all the time), is one way to do that (particularly in writing). Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 12:23
  • 1
    I disagree that it is always better to avoid the passive voice; I think that's an English teacher shibboleth. Some sentences just work better in the passive voice, such as if we don't know who the actor is or it's not important. For example, the time capsule will be opened in two hundred years. What else would you say? "Somebody will open the time capsule in two hundred years"? Passive is the clearest and most sensible choice sometimes.
    – stangdon
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 14:27
  • @stangdon: The link I provided mentions the sorts of exceptions to the "never use passive voice" rule, and your example sentence is one of them. Whenever the writer either doesn't know or doesn't care who the actor in a sentence is, passive voice is an acceptable choice. On the other hand I don't know there are ever any times when it is incorrect to avoid passive sentences, so a simple rule to follow is that if you don't know if passive voice is ok, it's safer to just not do so. Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 15:12
  • Brother, my question is related to "the new market opened" or "the new market was opened"
    – ARYF
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 6:58
  • 1
    @ARYF: you are correct in that someone has to open the market. A passive voice sentence is one where the speaker either didn't know or knows and didn't bother to tell his listeners who opened the market. Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 9:40

You are technically correct that someone would have to perform the action of opening a market, or a business, or even the doors to some event. However, to say a "market opened" is more of an idiom than precise English. Don't worry about it -- it's just something that English speakers say that doesn't quite follow the rules!

  • definition of open : To begin business or operation: The store opens early on Saturday. It’s not an idiom or anything strange, it’s just one of the many meanings of “to open” as an intransitive verb.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 28, 2021 at 18:00
  • It is an idiom, because, as the OP pointed out, a market is an inanimate thing that can't literally open itself. We just say "the market opened" and understand that one or more people were involved in the process.
    – Phil Perry
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 14:47
  • The OP apparently doesn’t know all of the definitions of “open”. Your assertion that inanimate things can’t open is wrong. 5 things to know before the stock market opens Wednesday. Businesses “open” all the time. Plays “open” on broadway. Open can be either transitive or intransitive.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 29, 2021 at 14:52

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