Explain What Active and Passive Voice is

Learn all about the active and passive voice in English grammar. Understand the difference between passive voice and active voice, and how we can write in an active voice with explanations and examples, and master the art of using both effectively. 


The English language offers a variety of ways to express actions within sentences, and two of the most prominent forms are the active and passive voice. These distinct voices play a significant role in shaping the structure and impact of your sentences. 

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of active and passive voices, exploring their definitions, differences, and applications, and providing real-life examples. 

What is the Active Passive Voice?

Active and passive voice are two different ways to structure sentences in English. They refer to the relationship between the subject, the verb, and the object in a sentence. Here’s a breakdown of both:

Active Voice: In active voice sentences, the subject of the sentence performs the action denoted by the verb, and the object receives the action. The structure of an active voice sentence is usually: Subject + Verb + Object.

Example: “Columbus (subject) discovered (verb) America(object).”

In this sentence, the subject “Columbus” is performing the action “discovered” on the object “America.”

Passive Voice: In passive voice sentences, the object of the action becomes the subject of the sentence, and the agent (the one performing the action) is often placed at the end or omitted altogether. The structure of a passive voice sentence is typically: Object + Verb (past participle) + [Agent].

Example: “America(object) was discovered (past participle of the verb ‘discover’) by Columbus (agent).”

In this sentence, the focus is on the object “America,” which is receiving the action “was discovered” by the agent “Columbus.”

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Benefits of Using the Active Voice

Using the active voice in your writing brings clarity, directness, and energy to your sentences. It succinctly communicates the action, making your message more engaging and impactful. Sentences in the active voice are straightforward and often shorter, making them easier to comprehend.

Advantages of the Passive Voice

While the active voice is preferred in most writing situations, the passive voice has its merits. It is particularly useful when the doer of the action is unknown, or irrelevant, or when you want to emphasize the action itself rather than the doer. The passive voice can also create a more formal tone in certain contexts.

When to Use Each Voice

The choice between the active and passive voice depends on the emphasis you want to give to different parts of the sentence. Use the active voice when you want to highlight the doer of the action and create a clear, dynamic sentence. Use the passive voice when the focus should be on the action or the recipient of the action.

Active Voice Examples

Sheila paints the masterpiece. (Active Voice) In this sentence, the emphasis is on Sheila as the doer of the action – painting the masterpiece.

The chef is preparing a gourmet meal. (Active Voice) Here, the focus is on the chef’s action of preparing the meal.

Passive Voice Examples

The masterpiece is painted by Sheila. (Passive Voice) In this example, the emphasis shifts to the masterpiece as the recipient of the action.

A gourmet meal is being prepared by the chef. (Passive Voice) The passive voice places importance on the meal being prepared rather than the chef.

Using Both Voices for Variety

A skilled writer knows how to use both voices to add variety and depth to their writing. Alternating between the active and passive voice can prevent monotony and create a more engaging reading experience.

Clearing Common Misconceptions

There are some misconceptions about the passive voice making writing weaker. While it’s true that overusing the passive voice can lead to vague or convoluted sentences, it’s not inherently incorrect or weak. It serves a purpose and can be valuable when used appropriately.


Can the passive voice always replace the active voice?

No, the passive voice doesn’t always work as a replacement for the active voice. It depends on the context and the information you want to emphasize.

Is the passive voice more formal than the active voice?

Yes, the passive voice is generally considered more formal, but that doesn’t mean the active voice is informal or inappropriate for formal writing.

Why is the active voice preferred in most cases?

The active voice is preferred because it’s more direct, clear, and engaging. It places emphasis on the doer of the action, which is often crucial for effective communication.

Are there languages with only passive constructions?

Yes, some languages heavily rely on passive constructions, while others emphasize different aspects of sentences.

How can I identify the passive voice in a sentence?

The passive voice often includes forms of the verb “to be” (such as “is,” “was,” and “were”) followed by the past participle of the main verb.

What is the significance of knowing both voices?

Understanding both voices allows you to choose the most appropriate voice for different contexts, enhancing your writing’s impact and clarity.


Mastering the active and passive voices is essential for becoming a proficient writer. Both voices offer unique ways to convey actions, recipients, and results within sentences. By skillfully using these voices, you can tailor your writing to achieve the desired emphasis, tone, and clarity. 

Remember, the key is to strike a balance and choose the voice that best suits your message. So, embrace the power of active and passive voices, and watch your writing flourish with newfound depth and versatility.