Active VS Passive Voice: What’s The Difference?

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

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Active vs passive voice are two ways to construct sentences, and understanding the differences between them can help you craft effective written communication. Active voice is a style of writing that places the subject at the beginning and emphasizes who is taking action. Passive voice, on the other hand, moves the object of an action to the beginning of a sentence while deemphasizing or omitting the agent performing that action. Knowing when it’s most appropriate to use either active or passive voice can make all the difference in conveying your ideas clearly and powerfully.

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What is Active Voice?

Active voice can be found in writing, speech, and other types of communication. It’s a style that puts the actor or doer of action in the subject position of the sentence – for example:

  • “She published the book” instead of “The book was published by her.

This allows for a more direct and active style that focuses on clarity and impact. Using active voice can make your writing easier to follow and understand, and it can also help you come across as engaging and confident in your communicative skills!

Examples of Active Voice

Using active voice is fairly straightforward. Here are a few examples of sentences written in the active voice:

  • She wrote the book.
  • He sang a song.
  • We finished the project on time.

Advantages of Using Active Voice

Using active voice allows for clear, concise communication that can be easily understood. It also eliminates unnecessary words and phrases from sentences, making them more direct and efficient. Additionally, it makes your writing more dynamic and engaging by emphasizing the subject of the sentence – which helps to draw attention to whatever action is being taken!

Disadvantages of Using Active Voice

Although active voice has its advantages, it can also be used inappropriately or in a way that doesn’t make the most of its potential. Using too much active voice throughout your writing can lead to sentences that are overly wordy and complicated – making them harder for readers to understand. Additionally, if you use active voice when describing something negative, it can sound accusatory or aggressive as opposed to the passive voice which is more neutral in tone.

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What is Passive Voice?

Passive voice is a writing technique that emphasizes the object rather than the subject of an action. It can be seen as indirect or “passive” because it often avoids mentioning who or what caused the action in a sentence.

  • For example, instead of saying “John wrote the book,” you might use passive voice by saying “The book was written by John.”

This subtle change of word order can be writer should strive to master.

Advantages of Using Passive Voice

One of the advantages of using passive voice is that it can help keep the focus on an action or object rather than the actor. In a sentence written in passive voice, the object being acted upon is placed as the subject of the sentence and the actor is removed or placed afterward.

  • For example: “The ball was thrown by him.”

This allows writers to keep their writers to create smoother reading experiences while achieving their desired emphasis on objects and actions.

Disadvantages of Using Passive Voice

Overusing passive voice can be detrimental to your writing. It can create sentences that are lengthy, and complicated to read. In addition, writing in this way obscures the subject which makes it difficult for the reader to follow along. Passive voice also voids the use of strong verbs and adjectives, making it almost impossible to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. While there is a time and a place for passive voice, it should ultimately be used sparingly as its disadvantages greatly outweigh its advantages when used too frequently.

Differences Between the Active vs Passive Voices

Voicing one’s thoughts and opinions can vary between the active vs passive voice. The active voice typically expresses ideas in a direct, concise manner with the subject of the sentence acting. By contrast, the passive voice is more indirect and emphasizes the receiver of the action. The tense of the verb used can also influence whether it’s active or passive; generally speaking, a past-tense verb implies a passive meaning while an active verb implies being in the present or future tense.

It can be helpful to use both active vs passive voice depending on what effect you are aiming for: if you need to deliver bad news or be assertive, it may be best to employ an active voice whereas a passive voice might be better suited for moments requiring diplomacy or humility. Knowing when and why to use each can make all the difference in communication!

How to Change Passive into Active Voice

One of the ways writers can improve their work is by changing their passive into active voice. There are numerous benefits to writing in active voice, such as providing clarity and punchiness to sentences. And while it can take time to get familiar with making this transition, it’s a skill that everyone can learn. You transform sentences from “The ball was thrown by him”, a passive sentence, into “He threw the ball”, an active one:

  • To start, find the subject first and then determine if it’s the doer of the action or if there is an ‘by’ phrase after it.
  • If there’s a ‘by’ phrase or any version of ‘be’ verb like was or were, then you know you have a passive sentence and need to change it.

Making these changes will not only help your readers understand better but also make your writing more lively.

Tips for Writing in an Active Voice Style

Active voice can be a powerful tool for writers, helping them to make their writing clearer and more engaging. Here are some tips that can help you incorporate an active voice style into your writing:

  • Focus on the subject of your sentence – what or who is taking action? This will help ensure that you create sentences with clear and direct messages.
  • Look out for words such as ‘by’ which signify a passive sentence. If you see any, try to rephrase the sentence so the emphasis is on the actor instead of the action being done.
  • Replace long-winded phrases with shorter, punchier verbs to add impact and dynamism to your writing.
  • Avoid overusing the passive voice. While it has its place, it should be used sparingly to ensure your writing is clear and effective.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to create sentences that are more direct and engaging while also avoiding the common pitfalls of using passive voice. As with any skill, practice makes perfect – so make sure to keep practicing your active voice style!

When Should You Avoid Using the Passive Voice?

The passive voice should be avoided in most contexts because it can make your writing unclear and hard to follow. Additionally, it can create a sense of distance between the reader and the content which is not ideal if you are trying to engage them. The passive voice may also obscure the person who is responsible for an action or decision, so it’s important to consider when using this type of construction can be detrimental.

Examples include business memos or emails where instructions need to be clear and concise, scientific papers that require precise facts, and marketing materials which need to convey a compelling message. In all of these cases, using an active voice is likely to be more effective than using the passive one!

Although there are some occasions when the passive voice can be helpful, it’s important to remember that it should generally be avoided. By focusing on developing your active voice skills, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively and make sure that your message is clear, concise, and engaging for all of your readers!

What Are Some Common Mistakes That People Make When Writing in a Passive Voice?

One of the most common mistakes people make when writing in passive voice is not looking out for ‘be’ verbs. This includes words such as ‘was’, ‘were’, and ‘am’ which often signal a passive sentence.

Another frequent error is using too many nominalizations –longer phrases such as “the decision was made by him” rather than just saying “he decided”. And, it’s also important to be aware of the use of passive constructions even when they don’t contain any ‘be’ verbs; this can be done by paying attention to who or what is the subject of the sentence.


By taking the time to learn the difference between active vs passive voice, you’ll be able to write more effectively and ensure that your message is clear and concise. Writing in an active voice style can help you engage with readers, make your writing more lively and make it easier for them to understand what you’re saying.

On the other hand, avoiding overusing the passive voice will help you communicate more clearly and ensure that all of your messages are effective. With practice, anyone can benefit from mastering both styles of writing so why not give it a try today?


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