The passive is used when you move the focus of an active sentence from the subject to the object, for example:
I've used the passive in the first part of the sentence because it's the most important thing, but then I've changed to the active because it's you who has to decide to move the focus of the sentence or not.
I've probably made things too complicated here, so a more typical example would be:
In the first example I'm concentrating on the play, Hamlet, and not on the person who wrote it. In the second example I'm more interested in Shakespeare himself.
The passive form is often associated with written and/or more formal language. This is true to a certain extent, but it doesn't mean passive=formal, active=informal.
Using the active form can make writing appear more vivid and alive, while using the passive can hide identity. Both forms therefore have their uses that have little to do with being formal or not.
The passive is very easy to form:
Just change the verb to be to whatever tense you need. The past participle never changes.
There are passive infinitives and gerunds which are also formed with the verb to be:
The agent would be the subject of an active sentence. It is introduced using by:
You don't need to include the agent if you don't know it, if it doesn't matter, or if it's obvious:
This is the part Spanish people don't like at all. However, this form is often used in English, especially in things like newspaper reports.
Both these structures are used, but the first one is probably the most usual because it can be used with almost any sentence:
The equivalent structure in Spanish is often the reflexive:
Some of the verbs you can use with this structure are believe, calculate, claim, consider, discover, estimate, feel, hope, know, prove, report, say, show, think, understand, etc.
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