Understanding Active & Passive Voice: Key Rules and Examples

Understanding Active & Passive Voice: Key Rules and Examples

Understanding the core difference between Active Voice and Passive Voice is extremely important for Learning English grammar. In Active Voice, the subject is the main factor that performs the action and which is expressed by the verb. it makes the sentence clear and direct. For example, The chef prepares delicious meals. On the other hand, the Passive Voice has totally a different way of performing the task. it reverses the order of the sentence, in a sense that the object of the action becomes the subject. This can sometimes make the sentence less clear. For instance, A picture was painted by me. It is extremely important to learn when to use each voice for effective communication in English.

Understanding Active & Passive Voice: Key Rules and Examples

Understanding Active & Passive Voice: Key Rules and Examples

What is Voice?

In English grammar, voice is used to refer to the form of a verb in a sentence that clearly indicates whether the subject of the sentence is doing the action (active voice) or receiving the action (passive voice). It is an important concept to understand sentence structure and the connection between the subject, verb, and object.

Two Voices in the English Language

There are mainly two voices in the English language:

  • Active Voice
  • Passive Voice

What is an Active Voice?

Active voice is when the subject of a sentence is doing the action. It’s similar to the main character in a story doing something. For example, in the sentence The dog chased the cat, the subject ‘DOG’ here is doing the action of Chased Active voice is used to make sentences clear and direct. It’s like describing a story with some energy and movement, which helps readers understand who is actually doing what. Therefore, in short, active voice is about describing who or what is doing the action in a sentence.

What is a Passive Voice?

Passive voice is a method in which sentences are built and where the subject of the sentence go through the action instead of performing it. In a very simply way,  it’s when the object of an action becomes the subject of the sentence. For example, The cake was baked by Sarah. Here,
‘The cake’  here is the subject which receives the action of being baked, and Sarah’ is the one doing the action of baking, but she’s not the main focus of the sentence. Passive voice is used to emphasize the action or the object, and it’s made by using a form of the verb  ‘To be’  followed by the past participle of the main verb.

Using the Active Voice and the Passive Voice

Active Voice:

  • We can use it when the purpose is to make statement clear and direct.
  • The doer (who does the action) is the main character. 
  • it help makes your writing quite engaging.

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 that preforms the action.
  • The verb is used to indicate the action being performed in a sentence.
  • 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 that who is actually 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 used in the place of the subject in a 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 that does 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 as following (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).


  • Active Voice:
    Active voice sentences are used to emphasize the doer of the action and are often more direct and clear.
  • Passive Voice:
    Passive voice sentences are used to move the focus to the action or the recipient of the action, this is what makes them useful for highlighting different parts of a sentence.


  • Active Voice:
    Active voice is generally considered to be clearer and more concise it makes the perfect and well preferred choice for simple communication.
  • Passive Voice:
    Passive voice does not sometimes make sentences more clear as much as it is required, especially when the agent is left out in a sentence, Therefore, it is used when the purpose is to emphasize the action is more significant than clarity.

Agent (Optional):

  • Active Voice:
    The doer of the action is clearly described in active voice sentences.
  • Passive Voice:
    In passive voice, the agent (the doer of the action) is considered to be optional and may be included or left out. and it actually depends on the writer’s choice or the context.


  • Both active and passive voices are used in various tenses (past, present, future). The choice of tense is decided by the auxiliary verbs that are used with them.

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

Pronoun Chart in English Grammar

How to change Passive Voice to Active voice?

in order to change a sentence from passive voice to active voice, it basically includes carrying the focus from the receiver of the action to the doer of the action. Here are some ways that can be used to do this alteration.

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 completely left out in a sentence.
In an active voice sentence, the subject is the doer of the action, and it usually comes before the verb.

Rewrite the Sentence:
it is a necessary condition to move the subject (doer) to the beginning of the sentence.
The object (receiver of the action) will be used after the verb.
It is important to modify the verb as it is required to match the new sentence structure.

Adjust Verb Tenses and Conjugation:
it is to be made sure that the verb tense and conjugation are used properly for the new sentence structure. The verb should necessarily 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) which is mentioned using the word –> BY.<–  In active voice, you have the option to include or leave out the agent, and that also depends on whether it’s necessary for the context.

Here’s an example below to explain the change 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, the subject Sarah  will be moved at the beginning, and will act as a subject and the doer of the action, and  the book  here in the sentence is an object .

it is important to remember that changing from passive to active voice is not always necessary, but it can actually help make your writing more direct and lovely, especially when the focus should be on the doer of the action.  You need to use your judgment to determine which voice is more appropriate for the context and emphasis you want to convey.

Understanding Active & Passive Voice: Key Rules and Examples

Understanding Active & Passive Voice: Key Rules and Examples

Active and Passive Examples

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.

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.

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