The passive voice can be commonly found in formal business and government documents where roughly 25% of all sentences occur in the passive voice.

The passive voice is also common to academic writing, mainly in scientific texts as a way of appearing objective, roughly up to 20% of sentences in academic texts may be in the passive voice.

OBJECTIVE: The underlying changes in biological processes that are associated with reported changes in mental and physical health in response to meditation have not been systematically explored. We performed a randomized, controlled study on the effects on brain and immune function of a well-known and widely used 8-week clinical training program in mindfulness meditation applied in a work environment with healthy employees.

METHODS: We measured brain electrical activity before and immediately after, and then 4 months after an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. Twenty-five subjects were tested in the meditation group. A wait-list control group (N = 16) was tested at the same points in time as the meditators. At the end of the 8-week period, subjects in both groups were vaccinated with influenza vaccine.

The passive voice is also common in magazine and newspaper writing, where it occurs in roughly 12% of all sentences.

Big Cat Conservation

The passive voice is also used a lot in item descriptions at museums

Virtual tour of Tibet at Newark Museum

Examples of Passive Voice in museum item descriptions in the Newark Museum

The passive voice is common in signs.

The passive voice is less common in spoken conversation, but it is used, and then mostly with phrases that are very common in the passive voice.

My first memory is from when I was two years old, and my baby brother was born, and my mother was in the hospital, and I was staying with a friend, and she snuck me into the hospital because children were not allowed when I was a child.  They were not allowed in the hospital.  And she snuck me in and into my mother’s room, and I could see my mother in bed, and she was holding my brother in her arms, and all I know, all I remember seeing is that it’s all red, and my brother has red hair, but I’m not sure if I saw his red hair, or I just was very, very angry that I was being separated from my mother.

Source: Conrad and Biber (2010)


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