The passive 'swaps' the order of the sentence from the usual order so:

    The boy hit the girl (the active sentence)
    The girl was hit by the boy (the passive sentence).

A similar structure happens in French but it important to know how to form the structure and the restrictions on it that make it different from English.

Start with the basic sentence: The boy hit the girl - Le garçon a tapé la fille.

Whatever tense the verb is in, it has to stay in this same tense in the passive. In this case, the verb is in perfect tense here so the passive sentence must be in the perfect tense.

The passive sentence is formed as follows:

Use être in the same tense as the original plus the past participle of the active sentence verb (e.g. hit - tapé) plus the past participle must agree (i.e. feminine, plural etc.) plus following the sentence with par (=by).


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In English, practically all verbs can be used to form passive sentences but in French not all verbs can. Verbs that are normally followed by an indirect object (i.e. have an à before the noun) such as parler à, demander à, permettre à etc. cannot be used in the passive.

Remember: that many verbs take an indirect object in French when they don't in English. See the section on pronouns for more information.

So sentences such as 'I was allowed to go' or 'He was told the news' aren't possible in French.

The only way to do them is to use 'on' (one/someone)

For example:

I was allowed to go On m'a permis d'aller (literally someone allowed me to go)
He was told the news On lui a dit les nouvelles (literally someone told him the news)

Try this exercise, put the following sentences into the passive, click in the box and type your answer:

For example: Le garçon a cassé la fenêtre = la fenêtre a été cassée par le garçon.

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