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Active and Passive Voice

UWF Writing Lab


Grammar Mini-Lessons Series #2
Defining Voice
Voice is a
characteristic of verbs
which indicates the
relation of the verbs
action to its subject.
The voice of a verb
may be either active
or passive.
Active Voice
Active voice verbs are
used when the subject
is acting in a sentence.
Example:
Cindy steered the boat.
Steered is an active
verb because it allows
the subject to
undertake an action.
Passive Voice
Passive voice verbs
are used when the
subject is being acted
upon in a sentence.
Example:
The mountains peak
was reached by Ed
Danvers.
Was reached are
considered passive
because they indicate
that the subject (peak)
is receiving an action.
So What?
Although both constructions are grammatically correct, the
active voice is usually more effective in academic and
business writing because it is simpler and more direct. The
passive construction is effective only when the doer of the
action is unknown or irrelevant.
Examples
The cruiseliner was hijacked.
The ball was hit.
The town was quarantined.

Review
Active voice verbs: Verbs
that indicate the sentences
subject as actively acting:
Marvin hit the ball.

Passive voice verbs: Verbs
that indicated the
sentences subject as being
acted upon:
The ball was hit by Marvin
Any Questions???
Quiz
Decide which of the following sentences use the passive
voice and which sentences use the active voice. Correct
the sentences that contain either inappropriate uses of
passive voice or an abrupt shift from active to passive
voice.
Example:
-Before I began my research, only German
fascism was studied by me.
Passive construction
-Before I began my research, I only studied
German fascism.

Professor Warren assigned each group a
research project; however, the documentary
sources were not located.

Incorrect Active-Passive Shift

Professor Warren assigned each group a
research project; however, he could not
locate the documentary sources.
For the opening flag ceremony, a dance was
choreographed by Kema Jones to Bill
Withers song Lean on Me.

Passive Construction

For the opening flag ceremony, Kema Jones
choreographed a dance to Bill Withers
song Lean on Me.
When the tickets are ready, the travel agent
notifies the client. Each ticket is then listed
on a daily register form, and a copy of the
itinerary is filed.

Incorrect Active-Passive Shift

When the tickets are ready, the travel agent
notifies the client. The agent then lists the
ticket on a daily register form and files a
copy of the itinerary.
Seismologists have examined data
concerning the recent earthquake, and
reports will be filed.

Incorrect Active-Passive Shift

Seismologists have examined data
concerning the recent earthquake, and they
will file reports.

Problems of famine, pollution, dwindling
resources, and arms control were discussed
by the senator.

- Passive construction

The senator discussed problems of famine,
pollution, dwindling resources, and arms
control.
Whenever an error was found by Mrs.
Clark, the entire paper had to be rewritten
by the student.

Passive Construction

Whenever an error was found by Mrs.
Clark, the student had to rewrite the entire
paper.