The Three Voices of French

Voice reveals the relationship between the subject and the verb.

Provence, Sunflowers field
Francesco Riccardo Iacomino / Getty Images

Voice is one of the five inflections involved in conjugating French verbs. It indicates the relationship between the subject and verb. There are three voices in French.

Three Voices in French

Active voice

The subject performs the action of the verb. This is the most common voice because it is the most straightforward, a simple subject-verb structure.
 Je lave la voiture.I'm washing the car.
 Il a cassé les assiettes.He broke the plates.
 Elle est prof de français.She's a French teacher.
  

Passive voice

The action of the verb is performed on the subject by an agent. The agent is usually introduced by the prepositions par or de. It has a slightly literary ring in French and is used much less frequently than the active voice.
 La voiture est lavée.The car is (being) washed.
 Les assiettes ont été cassées par le chien.The plates were broken by the dog.
 Toutes les chemises ont été vendues.All of the shirts were sold.
  

Pronominal voice 

The subject performs the action on itself. This voice is quite common in French, much less so in English. Pronominal verbs can be reflexive, reciprocal or simply part of idiomatic expressions.
 Je me lave.I'm washing up.
 Il s'est cassé la jambe.He broke his leg.
 Je n'aime pas me regarder dans la glace.I don't like to look at myself in the mirror.

Additional Resources

Passive voice
Pronomial verbs and voice