Grammar

Active and Passive Voice: Differences, Rules and Usages with Examples

Active and Passive Voice: Difference, Rules and Usage with Examples

Understanding the distinction between active voice and passive voice is pivotal for effective communication. These concepts serve as the building blocks of clear and impactful writing. In the realm of grammar, active voice, and passive voice are key players that influence how we structure our sentences.

Active voice places the emphasis on the subject performing the action. It creates direct, concise, and vigorous sentences. For instance, “The chef prepared a delicious meal” places the chef as the doer of the action. On the other hand, passive voice shifts the focus to the object of the action. It can be useful when the subject or the doer of the action is less important or unknown. For example, “A delicious meal was prepared by the chef” emphasizes the meal rather than the chef.

To use these effectively, it’s crucial to be aware of active voice and passive voice rules. In active voice, the subject acts on the object, and sentences are typically shorter and more direct. In passive voice, the object is acted upon by the subject, and sentences can become longer and less direct. Proper usage of these voices can significantly influence the tone, clarity, and impact of your writing.
Whether you’re a student striving for clearer essays, a professional author looking to engage your readers, or anyone aiming to improve their writing skills, mastering active and passive voice is essential. So, let’s begin with this journey to understand the nuances of these concepts, empowering you to wield them effectively in your writing for greater clarity and impact.

Active and Passive Voice: Difference, Rules and Usage with Examples

Active and Passive Voice

What is Voice?

In English grammar, “voice” refers to the form or format of a verb in a sentence that indicates whether the subject of the sentence is performing the action (active voice) or receiving the action (passive voice). It is an essential concept in understanding sentence structure and the relationships between the subject, verb, and object.

Two Voices in the English Language

There are two voices in the English language:

  • Active Voice
  • Passive Voice

What is the Active Voice?

Active voice is a grammatical construction in which the subject of a sentence performs the action expressed by the verb. In simpler terms, when a sentence is in active voice, the person, animal, or thing that is doing the action is the subject of the sentence. Active voice sentences are straightforward and clear, making them effective in communication. For example, in the sentence “The dog (subject) chases (verb) the ball (object),” the dog is the one doing the action of chasing, and the sentence is in active voice.

What is the Passive Voice?

Passive voice is a grammatical construction in which the object of an action becomes the subject of the sentence. In passive voice, the focus is on the action done to the subject, rather than on the subject performing the action. It often uses the verb “to be” (such as “is,” “was,” “were,” etc.) along with the past participle form of the main verb. Passive voice is useful when the doer of the action is unknown, unimportant, or when the speaker wants to emphasize the action rather than the doer. For example, in the sentence “The book (subject) was read (verb) by the student (agent),” the book is the one being read, and the sentence is in passive voice.

Using the Active Voice and the Passive Voice

Active Voice:

  • Use when you want to be clear and direct.
  • The doer (who does the action) is the star.
  • Makes your writing engaging and lively.

Passive Voice:

  • Use when you want to focus on the action or the receiver.
  • When you don’t know or care who did it.
  • In formal writing and when you want to avoid talking about the doer.

Active Voice Structure

In active voice:

  • The subject of the sentence is the one doing the action.
  • The verb indicates the action being performed.
  • The object is the recipient of the action.

For example:

“She (subject) eats (verb) an apple (object).”

In this sentence, “She” is the subject, “eats” is the verb, and “apple” is the object. This structure clearly shows who is performing the action and what the action is.

Passive Voice Structure

Object of the Action+ Form of “to be” (such as “is,” “was,” etc.)+Past Participle (usually ending in -ed or -en)+Agent (optional, introduced by “by”)

In passive voice:

  • The object of the action is promoted to the subject of the sentence.
  • A form of “to be” is used to indicate the tense (e.g., “is,” “was”).
  • The past participle form of the main verb is employed.
  • The agent (the one performing the action) is optional and may be introduced with “by.”

For example:
“The report (object) was written (form of “to be” + past participle) by Sarah (optional agent).”

In this sentence, “report” is the object of the action, was written” is the passive verb construction, and Sarah is the optional agent. The passive voice structure emphasizes the action (writing the report) or the report itself, rather than focusing on who wrote it.

Difference Between the Active Voice and the Passive Voice

Subject and Object:

  • Active Voice:
    In an active voice sentence, the subject of the sentence performs the action.

    Example: “The cat (subject) chased (verb) the mouse (object).”
  • Passive Voice:
    In a passive voice sentence, the subject receives the action, and the performer of the action (agent) may or may not be mentioned.

    Example: “The mouse (subject) was chased (passive verb) by the cat (agent, optional).”

Sentence Structure:

  • Active Voice:
    The structure of an active voice sentence is typically subject + verb + object.
  • Passive Voice:
    The structure of a passive voice sentence is usually object + auxiliary verb (a form of “to be”) + past participle + agent (optional).

Emphasis:

  • Active Voice:
    Active voice sentences emphasize the doer of the action and are often more direct and clear.
  • Passive Voice:
    Passive voice sentences shift the focus to the action or the recipient of the action, making them useful for highlighting different aspects of a sentence.

Clarity:

  • Active Voice:
    Active voice is generally clearer and more concise, making it the preferred choice for straightforward communication.
  • Passive Voice:
    Passive voice can sometimes make sentences less clear, especially when the agent is omitted, so it is used when emphasizing the action is more important than clarity.

Agent (Optional):

  • Active Voice:
    The doer of the action is clearly stated in active voice sentences.
  • Passive Voice:
    In passive voice, the agent (the doer of the action) is optional and may be included or omitted depending on the writer’s choice or the context.

Tenses:

  • Both active and passive voices can be used in various tenses (past, present, future). The choice of tense is determined by the auxiliary verbs used.

In summary, active voice emphasizes the doer of the action and is typically clearer and more direct, while passive voice shifts the focus to the action or recipient of the action and is used for various purposes, including highlighting different aspects of a sentence or maintaining objectivity. The choice between the two depends on the context and the writer’s intentions.

Pronoun Chart Grammar

Pronoun Chart

How to change Passive Voice to Active voice?

Changing a sentence from passive voice to active voice involves shifting the focus from the receiver of the action to the doer of the action. Here are the steps to make this transformation:

Identify the Subject and Object:
In a passive voice sentence, the object of the action usually comes before the verb, and the doer (subject) is often mentioned after the verb or omitted.
In an active voice sentence, the subject is the doer of the action, and it usually comes before the verb.

Rewrite the Sentence:
Move the subject (doer) to the beginning of the sentence.
Place the object (receiver of the action) after the verb.
Modify the verb as needed to match the new sentence structure.

Adjust Verb Tenses and Conjugation:
Ensure that the verb tense and conjugation are appropriate for the new sentence structure. The verb should agree with the subject in number and tense.

Remove the Agent (Optional):
In some passive voice sentences, there is an agent (the doer of the action) mentioned using “by.” In active voice, you can choose to include or omit the agent, depending on whether it’s necessary for the context.

Here’s an example to illustrate the transformation from passive to active voice:

Passive Voice: The book was read by Sarah.

Active Voice: Sarah read the book.

In the passive voice sentence, “The book” is the object that receives the action, and “Sarah” is the doer of the action. In the active voice sentence, we’ve moved “Sarah” to the beginning, making her the subject and the doer of the action, and “the book” follows as the object.

Remember that changing from passive to active voice is not always necessary, but it can make your writing more direct and engaging, especially when the focus should be on the doer of the action. Use your judgment to determine which voice is more appropriate for the context and emphasis you want to convey.

Rules of Active and Passive Voice

Rules of Active voice and passive voice

Active and Passive Voice Quiz

Active Voice:

  • She sings a song.
  • They play soccer.
  • He wrote a story.
  • The chef cooks a meal.
  • I painted a picture.
  • The dog chases the cat.
  • We visit the museum.
  • They clean the house.
  • The teacher explains the lesson.
  • The company makes cars.
  • The kids ate cookies.
  • I fixed a window.
  • The gardener waters plants.
  • The team won a game.
  • She sings a song.
  • The sun shines.
  • He opened the door.
  • I baked a cake.
  • They cut down a tree.
  • The artist painted a picture.
  • The mechanic fixed the car.
  • The children cleaned their rooms.
  • She will write a letter.
  • The scientists found a species.
  • The company produces products.
  • We enjoy the beach.
  • The baby smiles.
  • The chef is cooking.
  • I found my keys.
  • They organize an event.

Passive Voice

  • A song is sung by her.
  • Soccer is played by them.
  • A story was written by him.
  • A meal is cooked by the chef.
  • A picture was painted by me.
  • The cat is chased by the dog.
  • The museum will be visited by us.
  • The house is cleaned every Saturday.
  • The lesson is explained by the teacher.
  • Cars are made by the company.
  • Cookies were eaten by the kids.
  • A window was fixed by me.
  • Plants are watered by the gardener.
  • The game was won by the team.
  • A song is sung by her.
  • The sun is shining.
  • The door was opened by him.
  • A cake was baked by me.
  • A tree was cut down by them.
  • A picture was painted by the artist.
  • The car was fixed by the mechanic.
  • Their rooms were cleaned by the children.
  • A letter will be written by her.
  • A species was found by the scientists.
  • Products are produced by the company.
  • The beach is enjoyed by us.
  • Everyone is smiled at by the baby.
  • Dinner is being cooked by the chef.
  • Keys were found by me.
  • An event is organized by them.
Exercise of Active and Passive Voice 

Active: The cat chased the mouse.
Passive: The mouse was chased by the cat.

Active: The police arrested the suspect.
Passive: The suspect was arrested by the police.

Active: He will finish the report tomorrow.
Passive: The report will be finished by him tomorrow.

Active: They clean the house every week.
Passive: The house is cleaned by them every week.

Active: She gave me a beautiful gift.
Passive: A beautiful gift was given to me by her.

Active: The storm damaged the roof.
Passive: The roof was damaged by the storm.

Active: We can solve this problem.
Passive: This problem can be solved by us.

Active: The teacher has assigned the homework.
Passive: The homework has been assigned by the teacher.

Active: They are building a new bridge.
Passive: A new bridge is being built by them.

Active: He did not believe her story.
Passive: Her story was not believed by him.

Active: The mechanic will repair the car.
Passive: The car will be repaired by the mechanic.

Active: She cooked dinner for her family.
Passive: Dinner was cooked by her for her family.

Active: The gardener is planting flowers.
Passive: Flowers are being planted by the gardener.

Active: The jury convicted the defendant.
Passive: The defendant was convicted by the jury.

Active: He wrote the book last year.
Passive: The book was written by him last year.

Active: The company designed a new website.
Passive: A new website was designed by the company.

Active: They will announce the winner soon.
Passive: The winner will be announced soon by them.

Active: She found the lost keys.
Passive: The lost keys were found by her.

Active: The doctor prescribed a medicine.
Passive: A medicine was prescribed by the doctor.

Active: The chef will cook a special meal.
Passive: A special meal will be cooked by the chef.

Active: They are repairing the road.
Passive: The road is being repaired by them.

Active: She is teaching a new language.
Passive: A new language is being taught by her.

Active: The audience applauded the performance.
Passive: The performance was applauded by the audience.

Active: He is feeding the hungry children.
Passive: The hungry children are being fed by him.

Active: They have painted the walls blue.
Passive: The walls have been painted blue by them.

Active: The company sold a million units last year.
Passive: A million units were sold by the company last year.

Active: The chef is cooking a delicious meal.
Passive: A delicious meal is being cooked by the chef.

Active: They reported the news to the police.
Passive: The news was reported to the police by them.

Active: She opened the door for him.
Passive: The door was opened for him by her.

Active: He will tell the secret to everyone.
Passive: The secret will be told to everyone by him.


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