Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

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Depending on the way you phrase a sentence, a verb can be either active or passive. The active voice is more common in everyday writing, whereas the passive voice is usually used in formal documents such as official reports or research papers.

The subject of a sentence is the person or thing the sentence is about. When the verb is active, it means the subject is doing the action that the verb indicates. If the verb is passive, it means the subject is having that the action the verb indicates done to them. The voice you choose to write a sentence in will help emphasise what the most important aspect of the sentence is.

Let’s look at some examples of the active voice vs. the passive voice:

  • Active:

    ‘The girls’ school outranked the boys’ school in the league table.’

    This sentence shows the reader that the important part of the sentence is the girls’ school’s success. It would work well in a piece promoting the school.
  • Passive:

    “The boys’ school were outranked by the girls’ school in league table.”

    This sentence focuses on the boys’ school and so would be odd in a piece about the girls’ school. It would, however, work well in an article exploring whether boys and girls thrive under different learning methods.
  • Active:

    ‘The university newspaper publishes job advertisements.’

    This sentence emphasises the newspaper and would be useful when describing the types or articles and advertisements it publishes.
  • Passive:

    ‘Job advertisements are published in the university newspaper.’

    In this case, the job advertisements themselves are more significant than where they are published. This sentence might be useful when helping someone who is looking for a job.
  • Active:

    ‘Hundreds of wild animals inhabit the park’.

    You might catch a wildlife lover’s attention with this sentence. The animals are more important than the park.
  • Passive:

    ‘The park is inhabited by hundreds of wild animals.’

    This sentence draws attention to the park. It would work well in a tourism brochure that cites the park’s wildlife as one of many reasons to visit it.

If you found this article useful, why not check out some of our other posts?

Have a great week!

16 Apr 2018
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"This is a fantastic opportunity for our students!  I'm sure Spellzone will be invaluable in helping them to improve their spellings and therefore improve the quality of their writing in all subject areas!"

Teacher, High School, UK