The passive: special rules

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The passive: special rules

Reminder: The passive voice is formed with the auxiliary être + past participle.
Gérard Therrien dirige l’AIGF.
Gérard Therrien manages the AIGF.
L’AIGF est dirigée par Gérard Therrien.
The AIGF is managed by Gérard Therrien.
In the passive form, the verb is often followed by a complement which itself is introduced by par (by).
Victor a été décongelé par Muriel et Marcel Victor was defrosted by Muriel and Marcel (active form: Muriel et Marcel ont décongelé Victor)
L’affaire est suivie par la police The case is being dealt with by the police (active form: La police suit l’affaire)
When we don’t know who is performing the action, there is no complement. In the active form we would use on or quelqu’un.
Hier soir, du bruit a été entendu dans la rue Last night, a noise was heard in the street - we don’t know who heard it. The active form would be: on a entendu du bruit dans la rue.
Mon sac a été volé My bag was stolen - we don’t know who stole it. The active form would be: on a volé mon sac or quelqu’un a volé mon sac.
Une décision importante a été prise An important decision was made - the emphasis is on the decision, not on who made it.
Note:
•  When the subject of the active form is a personal pronoun, we can’t form the passive.
Je bois du café I am drinking coffee → we can’t say: Du café est bu par moi
Il suit l’affaire He’s handling the case → we can’t say: L’affaire est suivie par il.
•  In the passive, we make a distinction between the subject which undergoes the action (placed before the verb) and the subject which performs the action (placed after the verb) and introduced by par. Grammatically, the subject which perfoms the action is called the ‘agent’ or ‘real subject’.

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