A verb can have either an active voice or a passive voice. In an active voice, the sentence’s subject performs the action of the verb. For example, ‘I want a pizza now.’ On the contrary, in passive voice, the sentence’s subject is acted on by the verb. An example would be ‘Pizza is wanted by me now.’ You can see that the first sentence in active voice is more straightforward and clearer, while the other is a bit longer and confusing.
In this article, you will understand what is active voice and passive voice through various examples. You’ll also find the differences between the two voices and their right usage.
What Is Active Voice and Passive Voice in English Grammar
The active voice is straight to the point. It tells the reader who did what in long and short sentences. Most people use active voice unknowingly while speaking English. Put simply; a verb is in an active voice when the subject or clause of a sentence performs an action described by the verb.
There aren’t any major rules for using verbs in active voice. Only the subject needs to be the one performing the action of the verb. It is one of the key differences between active voice vs. passive voice.
When the subject receives the action and not performs it, it does not use the active voice. Both transitive and intransitive verbs can employ active voice.
Here are some active voice examples for a better understanding of this concept.
- Mom planted a tree in the garden.
- Maria was making a clay doll.
- Sam builds houses.
- Ria will write a paper.
- He had seen a movie.
- Satyajit Ray made films famous throughout the world.
- The thief took away valuable objects.
Now that you have learned quite a bit about active voice, you might be wondering what is passive voice. You use this voice when it’s essential to emphasize the verb or the action and the object of the sentence. It implies that the subject is not as important as the action.
This voice is also commonly used when there’s no clarity on the subject of the sentence. If you know about the subject but still want to use the passive voice, you put it at the end of the sentence. For example, ‘The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo Da Vinci.’
Some key points about passive voice include the following.
- In passive voice, the action is done upon the sentence’s subject.
- Sentences in passive voice are not concise compared to those in active voice. This is because you need more words to express something in a passive voice.
- The proportional clause’ by’ is a sign of a lengthy passive sentence.
- A passive voice is ideal for writing something like a research paper that needs objectivity.
- You can avoid using personal pronouns in the passive voice and present information unbiasedly.
Some passive voice examples include the following.
- The tree in the garden was planted by mom.
- A doll was being made by the child.
- Many wonderful poems were written by William Wordsworth.
- The woman was sentenced to 11 years in jail.
How to Change Turn Passive Voice to Active Voice
Sometimes, after writing and editing work, you may feel like there are more instances of passive voice than active voice. The topic may be getting unclear to the reader. If you want to make writing more impactful, changing it to an active voice is the key.
After getting clear on what is active voice, its easy to identify the sentences in passive voice.
Consider the example ‘The letter was mailed by Amy.’ Here, ‘letter’ is the subject, and ‘mailed’ is the verb. Since the subject (letter) is being acted upon, this sentence is in passive voice. Here are some rules to follow to turn passive voice into active voice.
- Move the subject of the passive sentence into the active sentence’s direct object area. Here, the subject of the sentence is ‘letter.’
- Eliminate the auxiliary verb (be) from the primary verb. Now, modify the primary verb’s form if required. Here, the auxiliary verb is ‘was.’
- Put the object of the passive sentence of the preposition ‘by’ into the sentence’s subject slot. Here, the object of the preposition ‘by’ is Amy.
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Tips to Use Active Voice in Writing
Writing in an active voice makes the sentences clear and precise. To differentiate between active voice vs. passive voice, it’s important to find the main verb of the sentence. To achieve the strongest content, learn how to change sentences to active voice and use them in most instances.
Use these tips to do your writing in an active voice. It will naturally make it crisper and more effective.
- Find verbs like was, were, is, and are when they are employed as helping verbs. These verbs are a sign that you can easily avoid passive voice.
- Make it a habit to position the doer or the subject of the action at the start of every sentence. It will allow the remaining sentence to flow into active voice.
- Adhere to the formula of a subject, verb, or object to write in an active voice often. However, don’t force active voice into your writing.
- When you use active writing, you minimize the number of words in the sentence. Essentially, you eliminate passive linking verbs that only make the sentence wordy.
- Leave out the subject if using passive voice is important. This is ideal when sentences include modal verbs like can, will, should, and the like.
- If the sentence isn’t using modal verbs, always ensure that you have the subject.
- Do not overcomplicate sentences using passive linking verbs. These additional helping verbs such as is, are, and should be, only slow the reader down.
- Be cautious when using by as an adverb. This adverb improperly connects a subject with its action word in passive sentences.
Hopefully, you are clear about what is active voice and passive voice. Use the examples and write sentences of your own to become an expert in using active voice. By using the right mix of both voices, you’ll be able to make your writing expression more impactful.