Using the Passive Voice for Giving Opinion in Writing Task 2

Many students ask me if it’s ok to use the passive voice to give your own opinion in an IELTS essay.

For example:

Is it possible to use “it is believed …” or “it is thought …” instead of “in my opinion” or “I believe”

This lesson will

  • explain when to use passive voice
  • explain about using passive voice for opinions
  • explain what the examiner is looking for in IELTS writing task 2 opinion essay
  • provide Free Video Lessons:
    • Expressing your Opinion for IELTS Writing Task 2
    • Language for Discussion Essays
  • give useful links for IELTS

Examples of passive and active voice:

  • The road was built a long time ago = passive
  • The Romans built the road a long time ago = active

Which should we use and when?

When to Use Passive Voice

We use passive voice in the following situations and ways:

  • when the performer (the person doing the action) is unknown or irrelevant
    • More wind power is used than solar power.” In this sentence, the people using the power is irrelevant to the information so passive voice is used.
    • The information was hacked from the computer.” In this sentence, the person doing the hacking is possibly not known or the person is not important to the person speaking so passive voice was used.
  • when it refers to a group of unspecified people
    • It is thought that the government should improve the infrastructure of all major cities.” In this sentence, we do not know who the people are that think this. We only know that it refers to “some people” but not a specified group.
  • when the person doing the action is less important than the action itself
    • The decision was made by the committee.” In this sentence, “the decision” is more important than “the committee” so the decision becomes the subject and passive voice is used. The person or persons doing the action is add after using “by ….”
  • depending on what is most important to the person or persons speaking
    • Trees produce more oxygen.” is an active sentence and “trees” is the subject. “More oxygen is produced by trees.” is passive voice. This is used because “oxygen” is more important to the speaker than “trees”.

Passive Voice for Giving Opinions

From the above information, we can see that the passive voice “it is thought” does not refer to you. It refers to other people who are not specified, for example “it is thought by some people that ….” This is NOT your opinion.

You use the passive voice in IELTS writing task 2 to write about other people’s opinions. For example, “It is believed by some that children should focus on sciences at school, while it is believed by others that children should spend time focusing on the arts.” Two opposite views belonging to other people – not you.

This means we will use it in a Discussion Essay or in your background statement when you introduce other people’s views before you give your own.

IELTS Writing Task 2: Your Opinion

When the IELTS writing task 2 instructions ask for your opinion, you must state your opinion clearly. This means it will be an active sentence. You will need to state:

I think / I believe / In my opinion

If you use “it is believed”, this is not your opinion. It belongs to other people. The examiner give you a lower score because you didn’t give your opinion. You can’t use “it is believed” to express your own views. It is grammatically incorrect in English and it is a big mistake in IELTS writing task 2.

How to Give your Opinion: Free Video Lesson

Watch this video lessons to help tips about expressing your opinion in IELTS writing task 2.

Discussion Essay Language: Free Video Lesson

More IELTS Tips

Click the following link to see model essays for IELTS writing task 2 and more tips: IELTS Writing Task 2 Main Page

See a Model Opinion Essay (Agree/ Disagree)

See a Model Discussion Essay

For tips and practice in other parts of the IELTS test, follow the links below:

Main IELTS Pages

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Comments

  1. Thank you

  2. hi liz,

    Is it that using ideoms in essay can lower the scores?

  3. Hi! Is using the balanced approach in stating opinion can achieve higher marks than one-sided approach? because I understand using balance approach requires much more practice and knowledge.

    • There is no difference in your score if you use the one-sided or balanced approach. The examiner is looking for a clear position with well develop ideas. Your actual position is not relevant to your score. Agree/ Disagree / Partially agree = all the same.

  4. Dear Liz, many thanks for your post. How about using ‘I assume’?

  5. Thank you, Liz. Very clear, as always.
    I’d like to know if you would recommend using passive voice in writings task 1 (academic IELTS), for example: “It is clearly seen/shown in the chart that…”
    Would it help the band score to include one sentence like that?
    Thanks!

    • “it is clearly seen in the chart that..” is one of the most overused phrases in writing task 1 and not really recommended to boost your score. You will use passive voice in diagrams/processes but in the other types, you will most likely not use it. You only use passive voice when needed – you don’t try to put it in inappropriately.

  6. Hello, firstly many thanks for your useful tips you have always posted on your blog. Hum, I have small question her. Can I use passive to paraphrase the question? For example. A new research indicates that addition to television and digital devices has a negative impact on kids.
    -It is found by a recent study that addiction to television and digital devices badly affect the health of children.

  7. Ezzadin Ibrahim says:

    I believe that the English language it is thought that the native English speaker is more releavent , and they have more ability and confidante in giving thier opinion and views

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