One of the most used grammatical structure that law enforcement English has to offer is Passive. Why? The answer is quite simple: usually, the subjects suffer in a certain context, nobody wants to be stabbed, robbed or killed for that matter. Sounds cruel? It is not by chance, you can take a look at any crime and you will see that Passive can be used everywhere. If a bank is robbed, or a vehicle is exploded, we use:

Passive Voice – BE + Past Participle (V3)


So Passive Voice comes into the picture when we either don’t knowdoes not matter or obvious who or what is the subject of an activity. Passive Voice focuses on the object rather than the subject. For example:


Two terrorists were taken into custody.

This sentence doesn’t inform us as who took those two terrorists into custody; the emphasis is on the act and the objects. Compare:


The police took the two terrorists into custody. (active)
Two terrorists were taken into custody. (passive)

When it comes to law enforcement usage, we don’t know or does not matter who took the terrorists into custody, as:


a, it is obvious that it was a SWAT, police or counterterrorist unit
c, so, it does not matter on a linguistic level who exactly did or we simply do not know.


How do we make a Passive sentence?

In three easy steps:

  1. We look for the object of the sentence. Here the “the two terrorists” is the object. Then, we make it the new subject. : The police took the two terrorists into custody.
  2. Then we check the tense: here, it is Past Simple.
  3. Lastly, we make sure they “agree” in the new sentence by following the BE + V3 formula: Two terrorists were taken into custody. 

So, in the active sentence the subject and the object is also mentioned, thus the Passive Voice is constructed in the following way: the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence. And don’t forget that the new subject has to be matched with the verb. Compare:


The police took the terrorist into custody. (active)
The terrorist was taken into custody. (passive)

Here, the object is singular, so we have to match the verb accordingly. (was)

The Passive Voice can be used with all the tenses and with all the modals. For instance:


Present Simple:
They interrogate the suspects. (active)
The suspects are interrogated. (passive)

Past Simple:
The police took the two terrorists into custody. (active)
Two terrorists were taken into custody. (passive)

Future Simple:
They will surveil the area. (active)
The area will be surveilled. (passive)

Present Perfect:
They have checked this room. (active)
This room has been checked. (passive)

When you use a continuous tense you work with the Passive formula – BE+V3 – and a continuous formula – BE+Ving.

Present Continuous:
The snipers are shooting at the terrorists. (active)
The terrorists are being shot at. (passive)

Past Continuous:

The extremists were threatening the city. (active)
The city was being threatened by the extremists. (passive)

The keyword is the Passive BE as it is the only word that would fulfill both requirements of the Passive and the Continuous tense. If the speaker thinks that the subject should be included in the passive sentence, they can do it by inserting the word “by”, like:

The bomb was defused by Gary. (passive) – It might be good/important to know that it was Gary who defused the bomb.After “by” we use the object pronouns (me, you, him, her, it, us, you, them), not: This house was built by he.

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