Grammar Trove
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Grammar Trove

Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

Learn how to correctly use the voice of a verb

What is the voice of a verb?

The voice of a verb indicates whether the subject of the sentence performs the action or the receiver performs the action.

The subject of a sentence indicates the person, place, or thing that performs the action of the sentence.

What is active voice?

If the subject of a sentence performs the action, then the sentence is written in active voice.

Let’s take a look at a small example!

Mary gave a Christmas present to Jane.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

In this example:

  • Doer (Subject): Mary
  • Action: Gave
  • Object: a Christmas present
  • Receiver: Jane

The highlight of that sentence is ‘gave’, the action of the sentence.

What is passive voice?

If the sentence is written in a way where the subject receives the action, then the sentence is written in passive voice. Most of the time, forms of ‘to be’ is used when writing in passive voice.

Let’s see how we can write the same scenario that was mentioned for active voice in passive voice!

Jane was given a Christmas present by Mary.

Photo by Kate Hliznitsova on Unsplash

In this example:

  • Doer: Mary
  • Action: Given
  • Object: a Christmas present
  • Receiver (Subject): Jane

The highlight of that sentence is ‘Mary’, the subject.

Active voice vs. passive voice

When to use the active voice?

If you want to bring the reader’s attention to the action of the sentence, it is best to use the active voice.

As active voice is clear and concise, it is recommended to use it for technical writing.

For instance, if we want to instruct the reader who is a user of a user management system to create a user, you can write it in the following ways:

  • Passive voice: The user can be created by clicking on the ‘Add User’ button.
  • Active voice: To create a user, click on the ‘Add User’ button.

As you can see, the sentence written in active voice gives clear and concise instructions as opposed to the sentence written in passive voice.

When to use the passive voice?

If you want to draw attention to the subject of the sentence, it is best to use passive voice.

Even though the passive voice is comparatively wordy, it is generally used in creative writing.

Hope you got a good understanding of active voice and passive voice!

For further reading:

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A collection of quick grammar tips.

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Yvonne Wickramasinghe

Yvonne Wickramasinghe

Business Analyst | Product Manager | Tech Writer

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