Passive Voice and Active Voice

In English grammar, there are two types of voice:

  1. passive voice and
  2. active voice.

In this lesson, we will explore the differences between these two voices and when to use them.

Active Voice

Active voice is used when the subject of a sentence performs an action. In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action and the object is receiving the action.

For example:

  • Passive Voice: The cake was baked by Mary.
  • Active Voice: Mary baked the cake.

In the first sentence, the subject is the cake and the object is Mary. In the second sentence, the subject is Mary and the object is the cake.

In general, sentences in the active voice are shorter, more direct, and easier to understand. They also create a stronger sense of accountability because the subject is performing the action.

Passive Voice

Passive voice is used when the subject of a sentence is being acted upon. In a passive sentence, the object of the action becomes the subject of the sentence.

For example:

  • Active Voice: The dog bit the mailman.
  • Passive Voice: The mailman was bitten by the dog.

In the first sentence, the subject is the dog and the object is the mailman. In the second sentence, the subject is the mailman and the object is the dog.

In general, sentences in the passive voice are longer, less direct, and can be harder to understand. They can also create a sense of ambiguity because the subject is not taking responsibility for the action.

When to Use Passive Voice

There are times when the passive voice is more appropriate than the active voice. These include:

  1. When the performer of the action is unknown or unimportant.

For example:

  • Passive Voice: The bank was robbed last night.
  • Active Voice: Someone robbed the bank last night.

In this case, the focus is on the fact that the bank was robbed, not on who robbed it.

  1. When the object of the action is more important than the performer.

For example:

  • Passive Voice: The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Active Voice: Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa.

In this case, the focus is on the painting, not on who painted it.

  1. When you want to avoid blaming someone or being too direct.

For example:

  • Passive Voice: Mistakes were made.
  • Active Voice: I made mistakes.

In this case, the passive voice is used to avoid taking direct responsibility for the mistakes.

In summary, the active voice is generally preferred in English writing because it is clearer, more direct, and creates a stronger sense of accountability. However, there are times when the passive voice is more appropriate, such as when the performer of the action is unknown or unimportant, when the object of the action is more important than the performer, or when you want to avoid blaming someone or being too direct.

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