Passive Voice (KS2) Made Easy For Parents

Mum sat with her daughter helping her write out practice sentences to learn the passive voice in English.
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Image © freepik, under a Creative Commons license.

While school holidays are drawing to a close, we know many of you will be using the last few days and weeks to squeeze in some homeschooling.

We also know that explaining year 6 English terms to your child can be challenging, particularly when struggling to find concrete examples. However, it can be simple to explain once you have a grasp of the key concepts and how to help your child work through them.

This article will define passive voice, give examples of both active voice and passive voice and how you can best support your child's English writing practice. Thanks to our handy guide, you'll be able to work through key concepts with them in no time.

Mum and KS2 kid lying on floor drawing on paper to help learn the passive voice.
Image © mego-studio, under a Creative Commons license.

What Is Passive Voice?

There are two ways of defining sentences, as passive or active. Put simply, passive voice refers to a sentence where the subject has something done to it by someone or something else. An example would be: The rabbit was being chased by Oliver. In this case, the rabbit (the subject) is being chased (the verb) by Oliver.  Here, because the subject of the sentence isn't doing the action, the verb is a passive verb.

If it is unclear who is performing the action in a sentence, it is passive, for example: The rabbit was being chased. We don't know who is chasing the rabbit, therefore it is a passive sentence.

Using passive voice can make information sound more formal, often useful in scientific report-writing. For example: The object was weighed and its volume was written down. Here, it's unclear who is performing the action so the information is more objective.

By contrast, the active voice is a sentence in which the subject is performing the action themselves. In this case: Oliver was chasing the rabbit. Here, Oliver (the subject) is performing the action, 'chasing' (the verb). In this instance, because Oliver is doing the action the verb is an active verb.

Three young kids lying on the floor drawing on paper to help learn about the passive voice.
Image © freepic.diller, under a Creative Commons license.

What Do Children Need To Know About Passive Voice (KS1 And KS2)?

Children learn how to use the past, present and future form of verbs in KS1 English, year 1-2. In KS2, year 3, 4 and 5, children cover the basics of the verb tenses and should have an understanding of how the passive can affect the information given in a sentence.

In year 6, students are required to know how to use active and passive voice to change how information is presented in a sentence. As part of their English SAT, they may be tested on passive sentences and must be able to recognise these and how to restructure them.

As part of their schoolwork, they may be asked to identify passive verbs or be given a verb  - such as to give or to walk -and write these in their passive form. They may also be given an active sentence and be asked to rewrite it to make it passive instead.

Dad and son reading a book together to see examples of the passive voice in writing.
Image © pressfoto, under a Creative Commons license.

How To Teach Passive Voice To Children

You can help year 6 children identify active and passive voice (KS2) in sentences by following some simple rules:

1. If there is an action being done to the subject, it is passive.

2. If the subject is performing the action, it is active.

3. If it is not clear who is performing the action, it is passive.

It can be helpful to create a list of sentences and get your child to practise writing the verbs in their passive form. Using easy-to-remember subjects (like the name of a family member, friend or pet) and actions that they like doing themselves (running, playing, eating) are useful to help engage their understanding. Some example sentences are:

  • Freddy ate five fish fingers for dinner
  • The owner walked his dog
  • The man threw the anchor over the ship  
  • The puppy chewed the slipper
  • Rachel finished her lunch
  • The bird laid the egg

There are also lots of resources online to support your child's active and passive voice year 6 learning. Educational websites have printable worksheets and practice SPaG test papers so they can assess their progress. Additionally, there are online videos that give great visual examples of active and passive (KS2) sentences.

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