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Voice: Active and Passive


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Voice shows whether the subject of the verb acts or is acted upon. Only transitive verbs (those that take objects) can show voice.

Active Voice When the subject of the verb does the action, the sentence is said to be in the active voice. In most cases and with most styles of writing, the active voice is preferred to the passive voice. The active voice is stronger than the passive, and it therefore produces more powerful sentences.

Example: I hit the ball across the field. The subject, I, does the action, hit.

Passive Voice When the subject of the verb receives the action, the sentence is said to be in the passive voice:

Example: The ball was hit by me. The subject, the ball, receives the action, was hit.

To form the passive voice, add the appropriate form of to be (is, was, will be, has been, etc.) to the past participle of a verb.

is smashed, was dropped, are being removed, has been repeated, had been sent.

To change a sentence from the active voice to the passive voice, make the direct or indirect object of the verb the subject of the verb, as shown in the following examples.

Active Voice: Storms damaged homes.
Passive Voice : The homes were damaged by storms.

Active Voice: I will make dinner.
Passive Voice: The dinner will be made by me.

Active Voice: Rover bit Christopher.
Passive Voice : Christopher was bitten by Rover.

Active Voice: Conrad wrote Lord Jim.
Passive Voice: Lord Jim was written by Conrad.

When to Use the Active Voice
In general, use the active voice to emphasize the performer of the verb's action. Except for a small number of specific situations, which are explained below, the active voice is usually clearer and more powerful than the passive voice.

When to Use the Passive Voice
The passive voice is more effective in certain situations.

EXAMPLES:
When You Do Not Wish to Mention the Performer of the Action:
A check has been returned marked "insufficient funds."

When It Is Necessary to Avoid Vagueness:
Furniture is manufactured in Hickory, North Carolina.

When the Performer of the Action Is Not Known:
Plans for fifty units of low-income housing were unveiled at today's county meeting.
The computer was stolen.

When the Result of the Action Is More Important Than the Person Performing the Action:
The driver was arrested for speeding.
The chief suspect was freed on bail pending trial


Sample Usage

Passive Voice Examples:

1. Hunger was what Bill felt.
2. Reading is enjoyed by Mary
3. The town was destroyed by fire
4. Funny is what clowns are
5. Cheese was liked by Sara.

Active Voice Examples:

1. Bill felt hungry (Bill is the subject, felt is the action)
2. Mary enjoys reading (Mary is the subjet, enjoys is the action)
3. Fire destroyed the town (Fire is the subject, destroyed is the action)
4. Clowns are funny (Clowns is the subject, funny is the action)
5. Sara liked cheese (Sara is the subject, likes is the action)


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