French Passive Voice

How to form the French passive voice

Both English and French have active and passive voices. For example, in an active voice, “Le garçon mange la pizza” (The boy eats the pizza). In a passive voice the sentence is: “La pizza est mangée par le garçon” (The pizza is eaten by the boy). This page will examine the French passive voice in detail.

French passive voice: beginners guide

The passive voice is used to put emphasis on the object (the pizza). In the passive voice, the subject (le garçon) and direct object (la pizza) are flipped. In English we use the word “by” in the passive voice. In French we use the word par. This is called the “agent”.

Examples of active voice and passive voice sentences in English and French:

Active voice
L'homme achète la voiture. The man buys a car.
Le boulanger fait un gâteau. The baker makes a cake.
Passive voice
La voiture est achetée par l'homme.The car is purchased by the man.
Le gâteau est fait par le boulanger.The cake is made by the baker.

How to use the French passive voice

The passive voice is formed by combining the required tense of être (to be) with the main verb’s past participle and the word par (by).

For example:

  • Le livre est acheté par the book is bought by
  • La livre a été acheté par the book was bought by
  • Le livre sera acheté par the book will be bought by

Note that if the object if feminine, the past participle must agree.

  • la maison est achetée par the house is bought by
  • la maison a été achetée par the house was bought by
  • la maison sera achetée par the house will be bought by

Example sentences

  • Le voleur est attrapé par le policier. The thief is caught by the policeman.
  • Mes devoirs ont été mangés par le chien. My homework was eaten by the dog.
  • L’homme a été invité par son amie. The man was invited by his friend.
  • Un nouveau president a été élu par le peuple. A new president was elected by the people.
French passive voice example

Why use the passive voice?

The passive voice is used to put emphasis on the performer of an action.

For example:

  • Le lave-vaisselle a été réparé par Robert, pas par Thomas. The dishwasher was repaired by Robert, not by Thomas.

Using “de” as an agent rather than par

Until now the example sentences we’ve seen have all used the the word par (by). However, in sentences where emotion is expressed we use de.

For example:

  • L’hôtesse est appreciée de ses invités. The hostess is appreciated by her guests.
  • Le président n’est pas estimé de la plupart des gens. The president is not respected by most people.

Passive reflexive verbs

In a separate page on reflexive verbs we learned that a passive voice can be created the following way:

  • Ça ne se mange pas comme ça en France! That’s not eaten like that in France!
  • Ça ne se dit pas devant les invités! That isn’t said in front of the guests!
  • Le mot se prononce avec un -t. The word is pronounced with a -t.
Related lessons:

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