Active and Passive Voice. How and When to use them?

active and passive voice

Active and Passive voice plays a major role in deciding the tone and focus of the reader. Know-how.

We have read sentences like “I want to buy shoes”. It is straight and clear. You understood when you read the statement that the Subject (I) wants to verb/action (buy) the Object (Shoes). Now, switch the order of the sentence’s subject and object and rewrite the same sentence. “Shoes are wanted to be bought by me.” It is a bit longer, awkward, and more detached.

These sentences are simple examples of active and passive voices. Some writing styles follow an active voice whereas the others find a passive voice more appropriate. Being an effective speaker and writer, one should master the usage of both voices.

Active Voice vs Passive Voice – Their Functions

In active voice, the subject always acts. 

The cat chases mice.

Observe, that the subject, Cat,  is doing the action, chasing, the target, mice. This is so simple and direct.

In passive voice, the target, mice, is placed in the beginning to move the focus. The sentence gets swapped within and the subject is being acted upon by the verb. In another sense, the subject becomes passive:

The mice are being chased by the cat.

Both active and passive voices are not better than the other, inherently.; but are apprehending certain styles of writing. 

This is the reason why news anchors speak in a way they are detached from their story. They use passive voice. 

Some author’s opinion sounds so definite. They write or speak in an active voice.

In my school days, I learned active and passive voices, but I used active voice more often in speech and writing. But when observed, we can find the usage of passive voice abundantly.

Active Voice

We have learned that the subject acts, in active voice. 

Example: Myraa like watching cartoons.

She loves rain.

The sentence structure is important where the subject does the action. It has a clear and direct tone. When the reader wants to emphasize the subject instead of the target/object, the sentence should be in active voice.

Passive Voice

The focus moves towards the target in passive voice and the verb acts on the subject. In every passive voice sentence, there are two verbs forms:

  1. The main verb’s past participle
  2. a conjugated “to be” form

The examples below use passive voice :

Cartoons are watched by Myraa

Rain is loved by her.

If you observe the targets, and the actions are now focused. Also, the sentences contain, is, and are – a conjugated form of to be and verb’s past participle.

Sometimes, the passive-voiced sentence doesn’t need a preposition. Note the examples below:

The patient was dead.

He will be martyred

India is known for its diversity.

When your words need a tone, like when you need your reader’s focus on the action rather than the subject (who or what). This is the reason for using passive voice in lab reports – to emphasize action by minimizing the domination of the doer.

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Usage of Active and Passive Voice

Even though practicing the passive voice in writing is not supported by writers, we use the passive in writings like emails, essays, and some kind of blog posts.

In some styles of writing, using passive voice is far more effective in communicating the facts. For example:

A car had broken into the house.

Rony was killed in the park.

When the doer isn’t clear, the action finds its importance.

There are some scenarios, where the action is important to convey something to the reader. For example, while reading some historical events, passive voice finds its way to make the reader focus on the action itself.

The king was coronated in his palace.

The spy was thrown into prison.

Here, the doer is never mentioned or is irrelevant. 

Changing passive voice to active voice

Read the sentence slowly and identify the subject (the performer). Then make the doer the subject and start rewriting where the subject gets the focus. The sentence gets restructured and the subject directly performs on the verb.

A faster car is being designed by a team of engineers.

The above example is in passive voice. When observed carefully, the doer is the team of engineers. But the focus is on the action. So pushing the subject to the beginning, the sentence can be rewritten as:

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A team of engineers is designing a faster car.

In this short example, we can know the basic steps of conversion. It applies to all the statements that are passive and need to be converted to active voice. If you plan to start writing something, check out these essential tools which include various necessary things.

  • June 25, 2022
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