What to use
In writing, you always want to make active voice your first choice.
As you work on writing, make sure you always know what voice you are using. You want to use an active voice as much as possible in your writing to make your writing more vigorous and energetic, but sometimes you will need to use passive voice.
One instance in which you might typically use passive voice occurs when you do not know who performed the action of the verb.
The gifts were left on the door step last night.
In addition, passive voice is acceptable to use when the actor is less important than the object receiving the action.
A cure for AIDS was discovered by the team of scientists.
You create active voice by making sure the subject of your sentence performs the action of the verb. Look at the sentence below.
The tiny kitten ate half a can of cat food.
In this sentence, the subject, kitten, performs the action, ate. Look at the next sentence.
The student took the book from the shelf.
In the above sentence, the subject, student, performs the action, took.
In passive voice, rather than the subject performing the action of the verb, the subject receives the action of the verb.
The half can of food was eaten by the tiny kitten.
The book was taken from the shelf by the student.
In both of the above sentences, the subjects, can and book, are not performing the action of the verbs, was eaten and was taken. As you can see, the “half can of food” does not perform the action described by the verb.
Instead, the action, was eaten, is shifted to the end of the sentence to the noun, kitten, just in the same way the student is now the recipient of the action was taken.
recognize active and passive voice
To recognize active and passive voice sentences, do the following:
- Find the subject of the sentence
- Find the main verb of the sentence
- Examine the relationship between the subject and the main verb:
Does the subject perform the action of the main verb?
- If so, the sentence is in active voice.
Does the subject sit there while something else—named or unnamed—performs an action on it?
- If so, the sentence is in passive voice.
change passive voice to active voice
To change passive voice to active voice follow these three steps:
- Delete the form of the to be verb.
- Use an active verb form rather than the past participial verb form.
- Make the object of the preposition and any words associated with the object of the preposition (but do not include the preposition) the subject of the sentence.
Read the sentences below.
A letter was written to his brother by Jamal. (Passive voice)
- Delete the verb was.
- Change written to wrote.
- Change Jamal from being the object of the preposition to become the subject of the sentence.
Jamal wrote a letter to his brother. (Active voice)