Active and Passive Voice: Definition and Examples

Marcus Froland

Welcome to this article on active and passive voice in English grammar. Whether you’re a student, a writer, or just someone who wants to improve your language skills, understanding active and passive voice is essential. In this section, we will define what active and passive voice are and provide examples to help you understand how they are used in sentences.

Active voice is a grammatical construction where the subject of the sentence performs the action. On the other hand, passive voice is a construction where the subject of the sentence receives the action. By mastering these two concepts, you’ll be able to choose the right voice for your writing and convey your message more effectively.

Throughout this article, we will explore the nuances of active and passive voice, provide clear definitions, and use examples to illustrate their usage in various sentence structures. By the end of this article, you’ll have a solid grasp of these grammatical concepts and know when to use each one in your writing.

So, let’s dive in and explore the world of active and passive voice together.

What is Active Voice?

Active voice is a construction in which the subject of the sentence performs the action. It is a direct and straightforward way of communicating information. In active voice, the subject is the doer of the action, and the action is performed on the object of the sentence.

For example, take the sentence, “The cat chased the mouse.” In this sentence, “the cat” is the subject, “chased” is the verb, and “the mouse” is the object. Here, the subject, “the cat,” is performing the action, “chased,” on the object, “the mouse.”

Active voice is often preferred in writing because it makes the sentence more engaging and easier to comprehend. It also makes the writing more lively and dynamic.

Advantages of Using Active Voice

  • Clarity: Active voice makes the sentence more clear, concise and easy to understand.
  • Brevity: Active voice reduces the length of the sentence by removing unnecessary words.
  • Engagement: Active voice engages the reader and makes the sentence more interesting.
  • Empowerment: Active voice empowers the subject, giving them a sense of control and importance.

Examples of Active Voice

Now that you understand what active voice is, let’s look at some examples to help you identify it in sentences:

Active Voice Sentence Explanation
You wrote a book. The subject “you” is performing the action “wrote,” making it an active voice sentence.
The dog chased the cat. The subject “dog” is performing the action “chased,” making it an active voice sentence.
She sings beautifully. The subject “she” is performing the action “sings,” making it an active voice sentence.
They built a sandcastle. The subject “they” is performing the action “built,” making it an active voice sentence.

These examples show how the subject of the sentence is performing the action, resulting in an active voice sentence. By using active voice in your writing, you can make your sentences more clear and concise.

Let’s look at some more examples:

  • You are reading this article.
  • The chef prepared a delicious meal.
  • The teacher graded the exams.
  • We cleaned the entire house in one day.

These examples provide further evidence of the usage of active voice in different sentence structures. By incorporating active voice in your writing, you can bring more clarity and energy to your written communication while engaging your reader’s attention.

What is Passive Voice?

You may have heard of the term “passive voice,” but what exactly does it mean? Let’s define passive voice and explore its usage in English grammar.

Passive voice is a grammatical construction in which the subject of the sentence receives the action, rather than performing the action. In other words, the focus is on the object that is being acted upon, rather than the subject performing the action.

Here is an example of a sentence in passive voice:

The cake was baked by your mother.

In this sentence, the subject “cake” is not performing the action of baking; rather, it is being acted upon by the object “your mother.” The verb “was baked” is in the passive voice because the subject is being acted upon.

It is worth noting that passive voice can sometimes be useful in writing, particularly when you want to draw attention to the object or when you don’t know who performed the action. However, overusing passive voice can make your writing sound dull and unengaging.

Next, we will explore a range of examples to illustrate the use of passive voice in different sentence structures.

Examples of Passive Voice

Passive voice is used to emphasize the action being performed on the subject, rather than the subject performing the action. Here are some examples:

Passive Voice Example Active Voice Example
Your order will be delivered tomorrow. The courier will deliver your order tomorrow.
The cake was eaten by the dog. The dog ate the cake.
A new project was approved by the board. The board approved a new project.

Passive voice can also be used when the actor is unknown or unimportant:

The Mona Lisa was painted in the 16th century.

In this case, it is not important who painted the Mona Lisa; what matters is when it was painted. However, using passive voice excessively can lead to wordiness and ambiguity. It is generally better to use active voice whenever possible, as it is more direct and concise.

Active vs. Passive Voice: When to Use Each

Now that you have a clear understanding of what active and passive voice are, you may be wondering when to use each in your writing. The decision to use active or passive voice ultimately depends on the context in which you are writing.

When to Use Active Voice

Active voice is typically used in situations where the subject of the sentence is performing an action. It is more direct and concise, making it suitable for academic writing, journalism, and other types of non-fiction writing.

  • Use active voice when you want to highlight the person or thing responsible for an action.
  • Use active voice to make your writing more engaging and reader-friendly.
  • Use active voice to make your writing more concise and direct.
  • Use active voice when writing instructions or commands.

When to Use Passive Voice

Passive voice is used when the subject of the sentence receives the action, making it more suitable for situations where you want to emphasize the action itself rather than the person or thing performing it.

  • Use passive voice when the doer of the action is unknown or unimportant.
  • Use passive voice to shift the focus to the action rather than the person performing it.
  • Use passive voice to avoid blaming or accusing someone.
  • Use passive voice when the action is more important than the person doing it.

It is important to note that the overuse of passive voice can make writing appear dull and lifeless. Therefore, it is essential to use active voice whenever possible to make your writing more engaging and reader-friendly.

Importance of Understanding Active and Passive Voice

Now that we’ve explored the concepts of active and passive voice, you may be wondering why it’s important to understand them. The truth is, having a solid grasp of active and passive voice can greatly enhance your writing skills.

By using active voice, you can make your writing more concise, clear, and direct. This can help you to effectively convey your message to your audience. On the other hand, passive voice can be useful in certain situations, such as when you want to emphasize the object of the sentence rather than the subject.

Additionally, being able to identify and use active and passive voice correctly can greatly improve your communication skills in both personal and professional settings. Whether you’re writing an email, a cover letter, or a report, understanding active and passive voice can help you to create a more effective and engaging message.

The Bottom Line

When it comes down to it, understanding active and passive voice is an essential skill for any writer or communicator. By using active voice when appropriate and understanding when to utilize passive voice, you can enhance the clarity and effectiveness of your writing. So, take the time to practice identifying and using both active and passive voice in your writing, and you’ll be sure to see the benefits in no time.