Active vs. Passive

When using an active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action expressed by the verb. The following is an example of an active voice:
  • The woman carried the box.

When using a passive voice, the subject is acted upon. He or she receives the action expressed by the verb. So the following is the above sentence written in the passive voice:
  • The box was carried by the woman.

The passive voice should be avoided as it can create awkward sentences. You can recognize the passive voice by looking for the various form of 'be' such as; am, is, was, were, are, or been. However, just because there is a form of be in the sentence, don't assume that the sentence is passive. Sometimes the passive voice is necessary, or works better. Consider the following passive sentences:
  • You car has been scratched.
  • Rules were made to be broken.

In the first sentence we don't know who scratched the car, so a passive sentence works better.

If we were to rewrite the second sentence, it would be, “People make rules to be broken.” This version is not as powerful as the passive style.

Last modified: Thursday, 14 June 2012, 4:19 PM