Imagine crafting sentences that are not only clear and concise but also carry an innate power to engage readers and hold their attention. This is where understanding active and passive voice comes into play. In this comprehensive guide, we will unravel the mysteries behind these two voices, exploring their structures, applications, advantages, and pitfalls. By the end, you’ll have a solid grasp of when to use each voice to your advantage, whether you’re penning an academic essay, a gripping novel, a professional email, or anything in between.
What is Voice?
Voice, in the realm of grammar, refers to the form of a verb that indicates whether the subject of a sentence is performing the action (active voice) or receiving the action (passive voice). It’s a subtle yet powerful element of language that can significantly influence the clarity, emphasis, and tone of a sentence. Understanding the difference between active and passive voice is essential for effective communication, as it directly impacts how information is presented to the reader.
There are two voices i.e. Active Voice and Passive Voice.
Active voice is a grammatical construction in which the subject of a sentence performs the action indicated by the verb. It is characterized by its straightforward and dynamic structure, making it an essential tool for effective communication in both written and spoken language.In active voice sentences, the subject takes center stage as the doer of the action, driving the narrative forward with clarity and impact. This structure is achieved through a simple arrangement: subject + verb + object.
- She paints a vivid landscape.
- The company launched a new product.
- They built a magnificent cathedral.
Active Voice Explained with Examples:-
Sentence 1 : “She painted the masterpiece.”
Object: the masterpiece
In this example, the subject “She” is performing the action “painted.” The active voice structure emphasizes the person who created the masterpiece.
Sentence 2 : “The chef prepared a delicious meal.”
Subject: The chef
Object: a delicious meal
Here, the chef is clearly taking action by preparing a delicious meal. The active voice construction emphasizes the chef’s role in the action.
Sentence 3 : “They completed the project ahead of schedule.”
Object: the project ahead of schedule
In this sentence, the subject “They” is the one responsible for completing the project ahead of schedule. Active voice showcases their achievement.
Tips for identifying and using active voice :-
Using active voice effectively can significantly enhance your writing’s clarity, engagement, and impact. Here are some tips to help you identify and use active voice in your writing:
1. Identify the “Doer”:
Look for the subject that’s performing the action in the sentence. If the subject is clearly doing the action, you’re likely dealing with active voice.
2. Check Verb Structure:
In active voice, the verb comes after the subject and before the object. If the sentence follows this subject-verb-object sequence, it’s likely in active voice.
3. Look for “To Be” Verbs:
Passive voice often involves forms of the verb “to be” (e.g., is, are, was, were, has been, will be) combined with a past participle. If you spot this combination, the sentence might be in passive voice.
4. Seek Clarity:
Opt for active voice when clarity and directness are crucial. Active voice ensures that readers immediately grasp who is doing what.
5. Vary Sentence Structure:
Mix active and passive voice to add variety to your writing. Overusing one or the other can lead to monotony.
6. Shift Focus Intentionally:
Choose passive voice when you want to emphasize the action or the recipient of the action. Passive voice can help you achieve a different tone and style.
7. Be Mindful of Tense:
Adjust the tense of your verbs appropriately, whether you’re writing in past, present, or future tense.
8. Practice Exercises:
Engage in writing exercises specifically aimed at transforming passive sentences into active ones. This practice will sharpen your skills.
Passive voice shifts the focus from the subject of a sentence to the action or the result of the action. In passive voice, the subject of the sentence is acted upon, rather than performing the action. This structure can be useful in certain contexts where the emphasis is on the action itself, the recipient of the action, or when the doer of the action is unknown or less important.
1.”A beautiful mural was painted by the artist.”
2.”The project was completed on time by the team.”
3.”A new software update was released by the company.”
Passive Voice Explained with Examples:-
Sentence: “The masterpiece was painted by her.”
Subject: The masterpiece
Verb: was painted
Agent (optional): by her
In this example, the focus is on the masterpiece itself and the fact that it was painted, rather than on who painted it. The “doer” of the action is mentioned using the optional agent (“by her”).
Sentence: “A delicious meal was prepared by the chef.”
Subject: A delicious meal
Verb: was prepared
Agent (optional): by the chef
Here, the emphasis is on the fact that a delicious meal was prepared, with less attention given to the chef as the doer of the action.
Sentence: “The project was completed ahead of schedule.”
Subject: The project
Verb: was completed
Agent (optional): Not mentioned
In this instance, the passive voice structure puts the spotlight on the completion of the project ahead of schedule, without explicitly mentioning who completed it.
Active Voice Vs Passive Voice:-
|Basis||Active Voice||Passive Voice|
|Definition||The subject performs the action.||The subject receives the action.|
|Structure||Subject + Verb + Object||Object + Verb (be) + Past Participle + by + Subject|
|Focus||Emphasizes the doer of the action.||Emphasizes the action or the recipient.|
|Clarity||Generally clearer due to directness.||Can sometimes be less clear and more wordy.|
|Engagement||Creates engaging and dynamic writing.||Can feel distant or detached.|
|Tone||Often more assertive and confident.||Can convey formality or avoid assigning blame.|
|Examples||She paints a beautiful picture.||A beautiful picture is painted by her.|
Practical Exercises for Mastering Voice:-
To truly master the art of using active and passive voice, practice is essential. Here are some exercises to help you sharpen your skills and develop a keen sense of when and how to use each voice effectively:
Exercise : Transforming Sentences
Take a set of sentences written in active voice and transform them into passive voice, and vice versa. This will help you understand how changing the voice affects the focus and tone of the sentences.
Active Voice to Passive Voice:
- She paints beautiful landscapes.
- The chef prepares gourmet dishes.
- They built a majestic castle.
Passive Voice to Active Voice:
- A song was sung by the choir.
- The novel was written by an acclaimed author.
- The proposal was rejected by the committee.
Active to Passive Voice Examples:-
Active Voice: She wrote an inspiring poem.
Passive Voice: An inspiring poem was written by her.
Active Voice: The company developed a groundbreaking product.
Passive Voice: A groundbreaking product was developed by the company.
Active Voice: They completed the project ahead of schedule.
Passive Voice: The project was completed ahead of schedule by them.
Active Voice: The chef prepares a delicious meal.
Passive Voice: A delicious meal is prepared by the chef.
Active Voice: The team won the championship.
Passive Voice: The championship was won by the team.
Active Voice: The artist painted a beautiful landscape.
Passive Voice: A beautiful landscape was painted by the artist.
Active Voice: He fixed the broken computer.
Passive Voice: The broken computer was fixed by him.
Active Voice: They organized a successful event.
Passive Voice: A successful event was organized by them.
Active Voice: She discovered a hidden treasure.
Passive Voice: A hidden treasure was discovered by her.
Active Voice: The teacher explained the difficult concept.
Passive Voice: The difficult concept was explained by the teacher.
Active Passive Exercises:-
Transform the following sentences from active voice to passive voice or vice versa:
- The cat chased the mouse.
- The team built a new bridge.
- They are discussing the proposal.
- The chef cooked a delicious meal.
- The company launched a new product.
- She solved the complex puzzle.
- The teacher assigned homework to the students.
- The mechanic fixed the car.
- The artist painted a stunning portrait.
- 10.They will complete the project by next week.
Rules for Converting Active Voice to Passive Voice:-
1. Interchange Subject and Object:
Swap the positions of the subject and the object while maintaining the general meaning of the sentence.
Active: She (subject) paints (verb) a beautiful picture (object).
Passive: A beautiful picture (subject) is painted (verb) by her (agent).
2. Convert Verb to Past Participle:
Change the main verb to its past participle form (the third form of the verb).
Active: They (subject) built (verb) a house (object).
Passive: A house (subject) was built (verb) by them (agent).
3. Maintain Tense with Auxiliary Verb:
Use an auxiliary verb (a form of “be”) that matches the tense of the original active sentence.
Active (Present): She (subject) writes (verb) a letter (object).
Passive (Present): A letter (subject) is written (verb) by her (agent).
4. Include “By” Before the Agent:
If the agent (doer) of the action is mentioned in the passive sentence, use the preposition “by” before the agent.
Active: The artist (subject) painted (verb) the mural (object).
Passive: The mural (subject) was painted (verb) by the artist (agent).
5. Retain Adverbs:
If there are adverbs used in the active voice sentence, ensure they are included in the passive voice sentence as well. Don’t omit them during conversion.
Active: He (subject) sings (verb) loudly (adverb).
Passive: Loudly (adverb) is sung (verb) by him (agent).
Change of Pronouns in Active Voice to Passive Voice:-
I (subject) -> Me (object)
We (subject) -> Us (object)
He (subject) -> Him (object)
She (subject) -> Her (object)
They (subject) -> Them (object)
It (subject) -> It (object)
Change of Pronouns in Passive Voice to Active Voice:-
Me (object) -> I (subject)
Us (object) -> We (subject)
Him (object) -> He (subject)
Her (object) -> She (subject)
Them (object) -> They (subject)
It (object) -> It (subject)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on Active and Passive Voice:-
Q1: What is active voice and passive voice?
Active voice is a grammatical structure where the subject performs the action, while passive voice places the focus on the action itself or the recipient of the action. In passive voice, the subject is acted upon.
Q2: When should I use active voice?
Use active voice for directness, clarity, and engagement. It’s effective when the doer of the action is important and you want to convey a straightforward message.
Q3: When is passive voice appropriate?
Passive voice is useful when you want to emphasize the action or the recipient, or when the doer is unknown or less important. It’s also used in formal writing and to create variety.
Q4: How do I convert active voice to passive voice and vice versa?
To convert active to passive, interchange the subject and object, use the past participle of the verb, add an appropriate auxiliary verb, and optionally include the agent with “by.” For the reverse, identify the subject and verb, check for an agent, change the past participle to simple past, and rearrange the sentence.
Q5: Is using passive voice considered bad writing?
No, passive voice isn’t inherently bad. It’s a stylistic choice that has its place. However, using it excessively can lead to wordy and convoluted sentences. The key is balance and knowing when to use each voice effectively.
Q6: How can I identify passive voice?
Passive voice often involves forms of the verb “to be” (is, are, was, were) combined with a past participle. Additionally, look for the use of “by” before the agent, if mentioned.
Q7: Can I use adverbs in both active and passive voice sentences?
Yes, you should retain adverbs and adverbial phrases when converting between active and passive voice. This helps maintain accuracy and clarity in your sentences.
Q8: Can I switch between active and passive voice within the same text?
Yes, using a mix of active and passive voice can add variety to your writing and serve different purposes. Just ensure that your choices align with the overall tone and message of the text.
Q9: Are there any situations where passive voice is preferable?
Yes, passive voice is preferable when you want to create a formal tone, when focusing on the action or recipient, or when the doer is unknown or unimportant.
Q10: How can I practice using active and passive voice effectively?
Practice with sentence transformations, writing prompts, analyzing texts, and switching between the voices. This will help you develop a better sense of when and how to use each voice for maximum impact.
Q11: Which voice is better for storytelling?
Active voice is generally preferred for storytelling because it creates a sense of immediacy and engagement, making the narrative more dynamic and compelling.
Q12: Can I use passive voice in dialogues or character speech?
Yes, you can use passive voice in dialogues to reflect a character’s personality or style of speech. However, be cautious not to make the dialogue unnecessarily complex.
Also read: Direct and Indirect Speech