Passive Sentences

Not all active sentences have corresponding forms in the passive. Only active and transitive sentences(SPOC* and SPOA*) can be transformed into passive sentences.

Transitive sentences can be transformed into passive sentences by:

  1. making the object of the active sentence become the subject of the passive sentence;
  2. replacing the prefix me- with di- (see prefix di- chapter)
  3. making the subject of the active sentence become the agent, recipient of the passive form signaled by the preposition oleh(by) which may be left out if the doer is obvious or unimportant.

Agentive Passive Sentences

Agentive passive sentences are where the doer or the agent is explicitly expressed by the proposition ‘oleh‘(by) plus agent.

Active Sentences

Subject Predicate Object Adverb Meaning
sudah mendengar
bisa meminjam
berita itu
dari Bank.
He heard the news yesterday.
He can borrow the money from the bank.

Passive Sentences

Subject Predicate Agent Adverb Meaning
Berita itu
sudah didengar
bisa dipinjam
oleh Anwar
dari Bank.
The news was heard by him yesterday.
Money can be borrowed by him from the bank.

Passive sentences are also called object-focus sentences, because the object is the focus of the attention. They are commonly used especially in newspaper headlines.

Passive Sentences For The First and Second Person

Some grammarians argue that the rules for transforming active sentences into passive sentences are not applicable for the first(saya, aku) or second person(kamu, kau, engkau, Anda). It only applies if the subject or doer is the third person.


Active Sentences Passive Sentences(1) Passive Sentences(2)
Saya menulis buku itu.
Aku menulis buku itu.
I wrote the book.

Kamu menerima bungkusan itu kemarin.
Kau menerima bungkusan itu.
You received the packaged yesterday.

Buku itu ditulis oleh saya.
Buku itu ditulis oleh aku.
The book was written by me.

Bungkusan itu diterima olehmu(oleh kamu) kemarin.
Bungkusan itu diterima oleh engkau kemarin.(never said this way)
The packaged was received by you yesterday

Buku itu saya tulis.
Buku itu kutulis.
The book was written by me.

Bungkusan itu kamu terima kemarin.
Bungkusan itu kauterima kemarin.
The packaged was received by you yesterday

When the first and the second pronoun happen to be aku(I) and engkau, kau(you), the clitic form ‘ku’ and ‘kau’ is used and is joined together with the verbs.

Most grammarians think the correct passive form is Passive Sentences(2). The only grammarians who accept both Passive Sentences(1) and (2) are Dr. Gorys Keraf, R. Ross Macdonald and Prof. Dr. Soenjono Darjowidjojo.

Read also this article: The Passive: Apa yang Sebaiknya Guru Ajarkan?

Non-agentive Passive Sentences

Newspaper headlines are full of non-agentive passive sentences where doers are omitted because they are understood or not important.

Tiga pejabat baru dilantik.
Dua polisi ditindak.
Supaya mudah dibaca, tulislah besar-besar.
Three new officers were appointed.
Two policemen were disciplined.
To make it easy for people to read, please write in big letters.

Passive Sentences With Prefix ter-

The prefix ter- is also used to express the passive voice but the prefix ter- implies that the action is accidentally done.(see prefix ter- chapter)

Penumpang itu dilempar ke luar.
Penumpang itu terlempar ke laut.

Kaki orang itu diinjak oleh Ahmad.
Kaki orang itu terinjak oleh Ahmad.

Rumahnya dibakar tadi malam.
Rumahnya terbakar tadi malam.

The passenger was thrown outside.
The passenger was accidentally thrown outside.

The man’s foot was trampled on by Ahmad.
The man’s foot was accidentally trampled on by Ahmad.

The house was burned down last night.
The house was burned down by accident last night.

Passive Sentences With Affix ke-an

The affix ke-an has a passive tone also.

Saya kedinginan karena AC.
Mereka kehujanan kemarin.
Soal itu ketahuan oleh orangtuanya.
Saya kehabisan uang.
Tadi malam saya kecurian dompet.
I suffered from the cold because of the air conditioner.
They were caught in the rain(yesterday).
The matter was found out by his parents.
I ran out of money.
Last night my wallet was stolen.

Passive Sentences With The Word ‘Kena

Saya ditipu oleh orang itu.
Uangnya dicuri.
Kami didenda polisi.
Anak itu dihukum bapaknya.
Saya kena tipu orang itu.
Uangnya kena curi.
Kami kena denda polisi.
Anak itu kena hukum bapaknya.
I was cheated by that person.
His money was stolen.
We were fined by the police.
That boy was punished by his father.

*)SPOC: Subject – Predicate – Object – Complement
SPOA: Subject – Predicate – Object – Adverb
See Sentence Pattern chapter.

Indonesian Grammar Made Easy by Dr. Liaw Yock Fang, TIMES 1996

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