Voice of a verb is an important concept in grammar because it describes the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by the verb’s arguments (subject, object, etc.). When the subject is acting as the agent or performer of the action, the verb is written in the active voice. It is referred to as passive voice when the subject of the action is a patient, the target of the action, or the one who is subjected to the action. Middle voice refers to a situation in which the subject both performs and receives the action expressed by the verb. When this occurs, a verb is in the middle voice. Voice is referred to as diathesis in some circles.
An illustration of the difference between active and passive voice in English is provided by the following pair of examples. However, the verb form ate appears in the active voice in sentence (1), whereas the verb form was eaten appears in the passive voice in sentence (2). In both sentences, the dog is the Agent (that is, the one who performs the action of eating), regardless of the voice used.
In both sentences, the dog is the Agent (that is, the one who performs the action of eating), regardless of the voice used.
The dog chased the squirrel.
The squirrel was chased by the dog.
When a clause in the active voice is transformed into an equivalent passive-voice construction, the subject and direct object switch grammatical positions. The direct object is elevated to the position of subject, and the subject is demoted to the position of (optional) adjunct. The squirrel serves as the direct object in the active-voice version of the sentence, but it becomes the subject in the passive version of the sentence in the first example above. It is possible to omit the subject of the active-voice version of the sentence entirely in the passive version of the sentence; the squirrel was devoured.
Generally speaking, the subject of an active voice sentence is the person or thing who is responsible for the action of a verb.
In the active voice, all tenses are possible, as well as all sentence types, whether positive, negative, or question-oriented.
Use of active
In English, the active voice is referred to as the “default” voice. All intransitive verbs can only be expressed in the active voice, and all transitive verbs are typically expressed in the active voice – unless we choose to make them passive intentionally.
When we speak English, we almost always use the active voice in our conversations. It is the logical choice because it is more precise and, in general, shorter.
Writing in the active voice is usually easier and more interesting for the reader when writing in English. Passive voice can come across as monotone and bureaucratic, and it is common in official writing. Many governments now encourage civil servants to write in the active voice rather than the passive voice in the interest of “plain English” that the average person can understand.
The active voice is as follows:
- direct and specific
- reduces the number of words used – always a good thing
- With the exception of situations in which the passive voice is actually useful, the active voice is the preferred mode of communication.
Despite the fact that the passive voice is less common than the active voice, there are several good reasons to use the passive voice from time to time.
Active Voice vs Passive Voice
The active voice is used when a sentence contains a subject that performs an action on its verb. The passive voice describes a situation in which a subject is the recipient of a verb’s action. Even if you’ve learned that the passive voice is weak and incorrect, it isn’t quite that simple to understand. The passive voice is perfectly acceptable when used correctly and in moderation.
In English grammar, verbs have five properties: voice, mood, tense, person, and number; in this case, we are only concerned with the voice property of the verb in question. Active and passive grammatical voices are the two types of grammatical voices.
The difference between active and passive voice is explained below.
It is known as the active voice when the subject of a sentence actually performs the action performed by the verb it is referring to. Strong, direct, and clear tone characterises sentences written in the active voice. Here are a few short and straightforward examples of active voice to get your wheels turning.
Examples of the active voice
The dog chased the squirrel.
The subject, verb, and object of each sentence are all part of the basic active voice construction. The action described by adore is carried out by the subject monkey. The action described by counted is carried out by the subject, who is the cashier. The subject, in this case, the dog, performs the action described by the word “chased.” The subjects are acting, acting, and more acting—they are taking action in their sentences. The active voice reminds us of the popular Nike slogan “Just Do It,” which means “Just Go for It.”
When the subject of a sentence is acted upon by the verb, the sentence is said to be in the passive voice, and vice versa. The passive voice is always formed by combining a conjugated form of to be with the verb’s past participle to form the sentence. This usually results in the creation of a preposition as well. Even though it appears to be more complicated than it really is, passive voice is actually quite simple to identify. In order to demonstrate the difference between active and passive voice, we will transform the three active sentences above into passive sentences.
Passive voice examples
Bananas are adored by monkeys.
Look at the first pair of sentences again: “Monkeys adore bananas” and “Bananas are adored by monkeys” Let’s take a closer look at the first pair of sentences again. The subject of the active sentence is monkeys, and the verb is adore, and the object of the active sentence is bananas (object). In the passive sentence, bananas (the object) + are adored (a form of to be plus the past participle adored) + by (preposition) + monkeys (the subject) are combined (subject). Making the sentence passive flipped the structure and necessitated the use of the preposition by, which was previously unnecessary. In fact, the preposition by was required in each of the three transformed sentences listed above.
The active voice conveys a strong, clear tone, whereas the passive voice is subtler and weaker in its communication. A word of caution: do not use the passive voice simply because you believe it sounds more eloquent than the active voice, as this will cause confusion. Having said that, there are times when the passive voice is appropriate and necessary. Consider the sentence, “The squirrel was chased by the dog.” Instead of the dog, that sentence construction would be beneficial if you were writing about a squirrel as opposed to the dog. A good rule of thumb is to try to write the majority of your sentences in the active voice, unless you are unable to write the sentence in any other way for technical reasons.