Active vs. Passive Voice: What’s the Difference?

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In active vs. passive voice: What’s the difference? Most people think of the passive voice as an error, something to avoid at all costs. But there’s more to it than that. In this post, we’ll take a look at the difference between active and passive voice, and when you might want to use each one.

Active vs. Passive Voice: What's the Difference?

What is Active Voice?

In writing, there are two main ways to construct a sentence: active voice and passive voice. In active voice, the subject of the sentence is doing the action.

The subject (I) is doing the action (writing).

In passive voice, the subject of the sentence is having the action done to them.

  • For example, “A blog post is being written by me.”

In this sentence, the subject (blog post) is having the action (being written) done to them by the object (me).

While there are times when passive voice can be used effectively, active voice is generally considered to be stronger and more direct. As a result, it’s usually a good idea to use active voice whenever possible.

What is Passive Voice?

The passive voice is a grammatical construction (typically using the verb “to be” plus a past participle) that allows a sentence to be written without identifying the actor.

  • For example, “Two dozen cookies were eaten by the students” is in the passive voice.

This construction is often used in situations where the actor is unknown, unimportant, or obvious from context. However, overuse of the passive voice can make writing dry and convoluted. To keep your writing lively and direct, it is generally best to use an active voice whenever possible.

How to Recognize Active and Passive Voices

The ability to identify the voice of a verb (active or passive) is important to good writing. The active voice is usually more concise and easier to understand than the passive voice. It also generally creates more powerful sentences. As a general rule, try to use the active voice whenever possible. However, there are some instances when the passive voice is preferable.

For example, if you want to emphasize the person or thing that is acted upon, you would use the passive voice. If you’re not sure whether a sentence is written in the active or passive voice, look for a cooperating verb (“we,” “is,” “are,” “was,” etc.) and then ask yourself if the subject is performing the action or receiving it. If the answer is the latter, then the sentence is probably written in the passive voice.

  • Active: The cashier counted the money.
  • Passive: The money was counted by the cashier.
  • Active: We will finish the reports by noon.
  • Passive: The reports will be finished by noon.

As you can see from these examples, when written in the passive voice, sentences tend to be longer and more complicated than those written in the active voice. In addition, active sentences often have a more natural flow than passive sentences.

However, there are times when using the passive voice makes sense. If you’re not sure which Voice to use, try reading your sentence aloud. If it sounds awkward or convoluted, chances are it’s written in the passive voice and could be revised to sound better.

The Benefits of Using Active Voice

If you’re not using active voice in your writing, you’re missing out on a powerful tool that can make your words more persuasive, more interesting, and more enjoyable to read.

Active voice is almost always more powerful and effective than passive voice. That’s because active voice sentences are direct, clear, and easy to read. They don’t require the reader to do any mental gymnastics to figure out who’s doing what.

In addition to being more clear and more concise, an active voice also sounds more natural and conversational. That’s because we speak in an active voice most of the time. It’s only when we’re trying to sound formal or scientific that we start using passive voice constructions.

So next time you sit down to write something, ask yourself whether you could say it more clearly and directly by using active voice. You may be surprised at how much more powerful your words can be.

The Benefits of Using Passive Voice

The benefits of using passive voice are many. For one, it can help to make your writing more concise. By avoiding the need to use personal pronouns and active verb forms, you can often cut down on the number of words you need to use. In addition, passive voice can also help to make your writing more objective.

By removing the focus from the doer of the action, you can often avoid coming across as biased or opinionated. Passive voice can also be useful for scientific or technical writing, where it can help to create a more neutral tone.

Overall, then, there are many benefits to be gained from using passive voice in your writing. So next time you sit down to write, why not give it a try? You might be surprised at the results.

When to Use Active and Passive Voices

In order to sound more like a native speaker, it’s important to understand when to use each voice. Here are some general tips:

  • Use the active voice when the subject is doing the verb. For example, “I am writing a blog post.”
  • Use the passive voice when the subject is being acted upon by the verb. For example, “My blog post is being written by me.”
  • The active voice is generally more direct and concise, so it’s often a good choice for business writing.
  • The passive voice can be useful for creating emphasis or for avoiding assigning blame.
  • One common error is using the passive voice when you should be using the active voice. For example, “Mistakes were made” is in the passive voice and could be rewritten as “We made mistakes.”
  • When in doubt, try reading your sentence aloud. If it sounds awkward or unclear, it’s probably because you’re using the wrong voice. Experiment with different versions until you find one that sounds natural.

With practice, using the correct voice will become second nature. And your writing will be all the better for it.

Guidelines for Choosing Between Active and Passive Voices

When it comes to choosing between active and passive voice, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

  • Keep in mind the purpose of the writing. In general, active voice is more direct and concise, while passive voice can tend to be more roundabout. If the goal is to communicate a message clearly and efficiently, then the active voice is usually the best choice. However, if the goal is to sound more formal or objective, then passive voice may be a better option.
  • Consider the tone of the writing. Active voice is often more vibrant and engaging, while passive voice can sound dull and listless. If the goal is to create an exciting or interesting piece, then the active voice is usually the way to go. If the goal is to sound more professional or serious, then a passive voice may be a better fit.
  • Consider the order of the subject and object. Active voice typically puts the subject first, while passive voice usually puts the object first. This can affect the overall flow and clarity of the writing. If the goal is to make the subject of the sentence clear, then the active voice is usually the better choice. However, if the goal is to emphasize the object of the sentence, then passive voice may be a better option.

The decision of whether to use active or passive voice depends on the situation and the desired tone. However, these guidelines can help to make the choice a little easier.

Examples of Active and Passive Voices in Action

  • “I wrote a book.” That’s an active voice.
  • “A book was written by me.” That’s passive voice.

Most of the time, you want to use an active voice. It’s more direct, more personal, and usually more clear. Active voice is easier to read and understand. And when you’re writing something like a web page or a blog post, you want people to stick around, so anything you can do to make your writing easier to read is a good idea.

There are times, though, when passive voice can be useful. If you want to de-emphasize the role of the subject (the person who did the writing), passive voice can help.

For example:

  • “The accident was caused by wet leaves on the road” takes the focus off of whoever was driving and puts it on the condition of the road.
  • And sometimes passive voice can help to avoid bias: “Two dozen cookies were eaten by the students” doesn’t assign blame for eating all the cookies, while “The students ate two dozen cookies” makes it sound like they ate them all on purpose!

So there are times when passive voice can be useful. But in general, it’s best to stick with active voice whenever possible. It will make your writing simpler and easier to understand – and that’s always a good thing.

Conclusion

When it comes to writing, there is no one “right” way to do things. However, some certain conventions and standards are generally followed in order to make writing more clear and more effective. One of these conventions is the use of active vs. passive voice.

So, active vs. passive voice: what’s the difference? Active voice is when the subject of the sentence is doing the action. For example: “I am writing a book.” Passive voice is when the subject of the sentence is being acted upon. For example: “A book is being written by me.”

Both active and passive voice have their time and place. However, active voice is typically more direct and concise, while passive voice can tend to be more roundabout. If the goal is to communicate a message clearly and efficiently, then the active voice is usually the best choice. However, if the goal is to sound more formal or objective, then passive voice may be a better option.

The decision of whether to use active or passive often depends on the situation and desired tone. However, these guidelines can help to make the choice a little easier.

FAQs

What is the difference between active and passive voice?

Active voice is a type of writing in which the subject of a sentence performs the action described by the verb. Passive voice, on the other hand, is a type of writing in which the subject of a sentence is acted upon by the verb. This can make sentences sound weaker or more distant.

When should I use active or passive voice?

There isn’t always a right answer when it comes to active vs. passive voice, but you’ll generally want to use active voice when you want your writing to be more direct and forceful. You’ll want to use passive voice when you want your writing to be more subtle or formal.

How can I tell if a sentence is written in active or passive voice?

To determine whether a sentence is written in active or passive voice, you can ask yourself who is performing the action described by the verb. If the subject is doing the acting, the sentence is written in an active voice. If the subject is being acted upon, the sentence is written in a passive voice.

Is there a difference between active and passive voice when it comes to grammar?

Yes, there is a difference between active and passive voice when it comes to grammar. In general, you’ll want to use active voice whenever possible because it’s more concise and straightforward. Passive voice can often be longer and more complicated. Additionally, active voice is usually considered more standard than passive voice.

Can I mix active and passive voices in my writing?

Yes, you can mix active and passive voice in your writing. However, it’s generally a good idea to use one or the other throughout a piece of writing for consistency. If you do mix them, be sure to do so intentionally and for a specific purpose.

Are there any other tips you have for using active and passive voice?

Here are a few general tips:

  • Use active voice when you want your writing to be more direct and forceful.
  • Use passive voice when you want your writing to be more subtle or formal.
  • In general, try to use active voice whenever possible.
  • If you mix active and passive voice, be sure to do so intentionally and for a specific purpose.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be sure to use active and passive voice correctly in your writing!

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