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Active vs Passive Voice

Active Voice vs Passive Voice: Roles of Active and Passive Voices in the English Language

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Active vs Passive Voice
 John Millar   Published On Jun 30, 2022 | Updated on Oct 05, 2023  Student Guide

Many articles have been titled active vs passive voice floating on the internet for years. But this blog finds its purpose in delineating the differences, similarities and the interrelationship between these two voices in forming the basis of the English language.

When you write something, you don't choose to explain the meaning through the words and expressions you choose. You also try to interpret it through the tone of your writing. Like you have your voice that helps formulate this tone, the English language depends a lot on this tone to make up the structure.

For instance, a sentence like " Everyone likes the queen" is direct. However, a sentence with a similar meaning, "everyone loves the queen", is more detached and has a long stretch.

You might have found many articles titled passive vs active voice on your search engine. But ultimately, they bear very little fruit, as the answers are misleading.

These are the fundamental differences between active and passive voices. Some writings are suitable for passive voices, while some are more apt for active voices. You have to understand why, how and when to use these voices. That is how you can become an impact writer and speaker of the English language.

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Definition of Active and Passive Voice: Functions Explained

When the subject acts on the verb, it is called an active voice. For example, "The dog eats the bone".

The passive voice will carry the same meaning, though, but here the subject will be receiving the action from the verb. Hence the sentence would look like, "The dog is eating the bone".

There are two grammatical voices in English, active and passive. You can't claim that one is better than the other. Passive voice has its usage and purposes. Like, reporters mostly use passive voice. The reason is their detachment from the subject. But when you have put the maximum authority of your position in a specific sentence, you will resort to an active voice.

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What is Active vs Passive Voice?

  • Using Active Voice

But there is a particular reason why teachers forbid students to use passive voices. If you use passive voices repeatedly in a single passage, your sentence will remain a trope. Well, while it's a matter to discuss in the latter half of this blog. So now, let us ponder how you would recognise passive and active voices in your writing?

- Shapiro likes jungles.

- Her favorite dish is fish and chips.

It doesn't matter what verb you use here. When you structure your sentence in a way where the subject is a tool to perform the verb, it is in an active voice.

All active voices have a clear tone, and they are spelt directly.

  • Using Passive Voice

When the verb starts to act upon the subject, it is called a passive voice. Sometimes, you work upon the subject with the verb to make the sentence into a passive voice. Every passive voice sentence consists of two types of verbs.

  1. The conjunction of 'to be used to connect the subject with the predicate. And,
  2. The past participle form of the main verb is used for turning the subject.

Because of these two components, passive voice sentences are never devoid of prepositions. Most of the time, passive voice sentences are longer than active voice sentences. Therefore, it has to include more prepositions and some additional words. Here is an example of a passive voice sentence.

Winter break is favored by most students.

Here, between 'is' and 'favored', there exists a conjugated sense of 'to be'. Moreover, the word 'favored' is the past participle form of the main verb 'favor', which connects the sentence with most students with a 'by', i.e., the proposition.

The tone of passive voices is much more subtle than active voices. You may need this tone in some writing. For example, you may want to describe the action to your reader on some occasion. You also may require the verb of the subject of the sentence to become the verb's direct object. That's why we use passive voice sentences in laboratory reports. It minimises the focus on the taker of the action, thereby bringing a high amount of objectivity to the sentence.

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Use of Passive and Active Voice

There are many conflicting opinions regarding passive and active voices in a sentence. This leads students to search with keywords like, "what is active vs passive voice?"

An overall study of passive and active voice is required in such a scenario. People may tell you that it is incorrect to use passive voice instead of active voice. But the equation is not that simple. Using passive voice cannot be termed as 'poor writing' straightaway.

You primarily write emails, different essays, and blogs as your regular writing prices. undoubtedly, an active voice is more appropriate than the passive voice in such cases.

However, you cannot help but use passive voice in some cases. For example, imagine a news report describing a crime or other incidents. It will be written as the following:

- A bus was broken in the North Town abbey the other day.

- The guy was murdered in broad daylight.

In such reports, one will always use the passive voice to focus on the action that has taken place. It makes a steady shift from the doer or narrator of the action. The reason might be that the assassin is still not caught or is not proven guilty.

Some other kinds of writings where the action is in primacy, replacing the performer of the action. Most scientific reports or historical reports are found this way. Following are some instances:

- The cats were placed inside the manhole.

- The minister was felicitated at the house.

Probably you have already noticed that the performer of the action is not highlighted in both these cases. In the first instance, the municipality city staff are the people who are installing cats inside manholes to take care of rats. In the second example, the person who has initiated the felicitation ceremony is not more important than the senses the sentence carries.

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Changing Passive Voice Into Active Voice

Let's presume that there are some passive voice sentences in your paragraph or essay.

More convenient travelling options were demanded by the students. Many tuition fees are paid on the student's behalf to the authority. But in reality, students are deprived of the facilities they usually need.

Look how the sentences surface around the main theme without addressing it properly. They are not addressing the topic right on the point. Here, no persuasive argument is being offered by the writer. But it can be much more impact if changed to an active voice.

Here's how a change of voice will apply to each sentence.

Students demand a more convenient travelling option. They pay a large number of tuition fees to the authority. But they deprived students of what they usually need.

So, these are the genuine interrelationships between active and passive voices.

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