As stated previously, the more common voice construction in English is the active voice; however, there are generally three times when the passive voice is the structure of choice for speakers and writers (Celce-Murcia & Larsen-Freeman, 1983; Robinson, 2000):
1. The passive voice allows speakers and writers to keep discourse topics in the subject position over successive clauses while adding new information in the remainder of the clause. Note these two examples.
a. I had just finished paying off my new car when it was towed by the police. Then, on the way to the towing compound, it was rammed by a truck and demolished.
b. The first electronic computer was built in Britain during World War II. It was used to decipher Hitler’s confidential messages to his generals. After the war, it was destroyed so that the world would not learn how the British broke codes.
2. The passive voice allows speakers and writers not to mention an "agent," especially when information about the agent is unknown, unimportant, obvious, confidential, or difficult to identify. (The word "agent" refers to the performer of an action.)
a. My car was stolen.
b. A decision has been made.
c. Much tobacco is grown in Eastern Europe.
d. A new president has been elected.
e. Both French and English are spoken in Canada.
3. The passive voice allows speakers and writers to place emphasis on the receiver of an action.
a. Thirteen people were injured by a tornado in Florida.
b. I was robbed.
Summary of Use of the Passive Voice
1. To keep discourse topics in the subject position of sentences.
2. To avoid mentioning the agent of an action.
3. To emphasize the receiver of an action.