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Active vs. Passive Voice. Active vs. Passive Voice. A sentence is written in the active voice when: The subject of the sentence performs the action. The person/thing performing the action is named before the verb. EXAMPLE: My grandfather took me to my first horse show.

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active vs passive voice1
Active vs. Passive Voice
  • A sentence is written in the active voice when:
    • The subject of the sentence performs the action.
    • The person/thing performing the action is named before the verb.

EXAMPLE:

My grandfather took me to my first horse show.

NOT: I was taken to my first horse show by my grandfather.

another example
Another example
  • Active voice:

My mother taught me to fish almost before I learned to walk.

  • Passive voice:

I was taught to fish by my mother almost before I was taught to walk.

active voice sentences
Active voice sentences
  • When you write in the active voice, sentences are typically shorter and clearer.
  • They sound more conversational.
  • If each word costs you a nickel, you want to write concisely and in the active voice!
active voice does not mean present tense verbs
Active voice does not mean present tense verbs

Present tense:

  • The clerk opens the mail. (active)
  • The mail is opened by the clerk. (passive)

Past tense:

  • The clerk opened the mail. (active)
  • The mail was opened by the clerk. (passive)
active voice does not mean present tense verbs1
Active voice does not mean present tense verbs

Future tense:

  • The clerk will open the mail. (active)
  • The mail will be opened by the clerk. (passive)

Present Perfect tense:

  • The clerk has opened the mail. (active)
  • The mail has been opened by the clerk. (passive)
active voice does not mean present tense verbs2
Active voice does not mean present tense verbs

Past Perfect tense:

  • The clerk had opened the mail. (active)
  • The mail had been opened by the clerk. (passive)

Future Perfect tense:

  • The clerk will have opened the mail. (active)
  • The mail will have been opened by the clerk. (passive)
passive voice is acceptable
Passive voice is acceptable …
  • When you choose to write in the passive voice, you are emphasizing the object of the sentence rather than the subject.
  • Scientific writing is a good example of passive voice writing.
passive voice
Passive voice
  • The three-inch incision is made right above the pubic bone. Plastic clips are used to clamp off blood vessels and minimize bleeding. The skin is folded back and secured with clamps. Next, the stomach muscle is cut at a fifteen-degree angle, right top to bottom left.
  • $2.40
active voice
Active voice
  • The doctor makes a three-inch incision right above the pubic bone. He uses plastic clips to clamp off the blood vessels and minimize bleeding. He folds back the skin and secures it with clamps. Next, he cuts the stomach muscle at a fifteen-degree angle, right top to bottom left.
  • $2.55
passive voice acceptable
Passive voice acceptable …
  • If that agent of action (the individual doing the action) is unknown or needs to remain a secret:
    • It was reported that …
    • Unizan Bank was robbed …

News writers protect sources this way. They also may not know who committed the action.

passive voice acceptable1
Passive voice acceptable
  • Sometimes, a passive voice sentence will be shorter than an active voice. If it helps clarify the sentence by writing in the passive voice, you may choose this option.
  • Passive: The interviewer was told to give interviewees an electric shock each time they smiled! ($ .70)
  • Active: The designers of the study told the interviewer to give interviewees an electric shock each time they smiled! ($ .90)