Active Voice

reviewed byKateryna Protsenko / more about Editorial Process

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In this reference, we will explore the definition of active voice, the grammar that governs it, how to identify it, and its benefits. We will also discuss common mistakes to avoid and how to use active voice in different types of writing, including academic, business, and creative writing.

What is Active Voice in English?

Active voice is a grammatical term used to describe a sentence in which the subject of the sentence performs the action. In other words, the subject is the doer of the action.

For example, "John wrote the report" is an active voice sentence because John, the subject of the sentence, is doing the action of writing. In contrast, the passive voice is a sentence in which the subject receives the action. For example, "The report was written by John" is a passive voice sentence because the subject (the report) is not doing the action; rather, it is the object of the action.

While both active and passive voices are grammatically correct, active voice is generally preferred in writing because it is more direct and concise. It also puts emphasis on the subject and the action, making the sentence more engaging and interesting.

The Grammar of Active Voice

To write in active voice, you need to understand the basic grammar rules that govern it.

The subject always stands before the verb, and the object (if there is one) comes after the verb. For example, "The cat chased the mouse" is an active voice sentence because the subject (the cat) comes before the verb (chased), and the object (the mouse) comes after the verb.

In contrast, "The mouse was chased by the cat" is a passive voice sentence because the subject (the mouse) comes after the verb (was chased), and the object (the cat) comes before the verb.

Another important aspect of active voice is the use of active voice verbs. Active voice verbs are those that describe an action that the subject of the sentence is doing.

For example, "write," "run," "jump," and "eat" are all active voice verbs. In contrast, passive voice verbs are those that describe an action that is being done to the subject. For example, "be written," "be run," "be jumped," and "be eaten" are all passive voice verbs.

How to Identify Active Voice

Identifying active voice in a sentence is fairly simple. Look for the subject of the sentence and the action it is performing. If our subject is performing the action, then the sentence is in active voice. If the subject is receiving the action, then the sentence is in passive voice.

For example, consider the following two sentences:

  • The ball was kicked by the boy. (passive voice)
  • The boy kicked the ball. (active voice)

In the first sentence, the subject (the ball) is not doing the action; instead, it is receiving the action (being kicked) from the boy. In the second sentence, the subject (the boy) is doing the action (kicking) to the ball. Therefore, the second sentence is in active voice.

Active Voice Examples

Here are some examples of active voice sentences:

  • The girl sang a song.
  • The chef prepared the meal.
  • The teacher graded the papers.
  • The dog chased the cat.
  • The company launched a new product.

In all of these sentences, the subject is performing the action, making them all active voice sentences.

Active Voice Examples 
Benefits of Using Active Voice

There are several benefits to using active voice in writing:

Clear

Active voice is more direct than passive voice, making the meaning of the sentence clearer and easier to understand. It puts emphasis on the subject and the action, making the sentence more engaging and interesting.

Simple

Active voice sentences are usually shorter than passive voice sentences, which can help to reduce wordiness and make the writing more concise.

Engaging

Active voice sentences are more engaging than passive voice sentences. They make the reader feel like they are part of the action, which can help to keep them interested in what you are writing.

Direct

Active voice sentences are more direct than passive voice sentences. They make the point of the sentence clear and easy to understand.

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Common Mistakes to Avoid

While using active voice is generally preferred in writing, there are some common mistakes that writers make when trying to write in active voice. 

Passive Voice Verbs

Using passive voice verbs instead of active voice verbs. For example, using "was eaten" instead of "ate" or "was written" instead of "wrote."

Passive Voice Infinitives

Using passive voice infinitives instead of active voice infinitives. For example, using "to be eaten" instead of "to eat" or "to be written" instead of "to write."

Passive Voice Sentence Structures

Using passive voice sentence structures instead of active voice sentence structures. For example, using "It is believed that" instead of "People believe that" or "It was decided that" instead of "We decided that."

Too Many Adverbs

Using too many adverbs in an attempt to make the sentence more descriptive. For example, using "He ran quickly" instead of "He sprinted."

How to Use Active Voice in Different Types of Writing

Active voice can be used in different types of writing, including academic, business, and creative writing. Here is how to add active voice to each type of writing:

Academic Writing

In academic writing, it is important to use active voice to make the writing more engaging and interesting. It also helps to make the point of the sentence clear and easy to understand. Here are some tips for using active voice in academic writing:

  • Use active voice verbs to describe your research methods and findings.
  • Use active voice to describe your arguments and conclusions.
  • Use active voice to describe the significance of your research.

Business Writing

In business writing, it is important to use active voice to make the writing more direct and concise. It also helps to make the point of the sentence clear and easy to understand. Here are some tips for using active voice in business writing:

  • Use active voice to describe your products and services.
  • Use active voice to describe your company's achievements and successes.
  • Use active voice to make recommendations and proposals.

Creative Writing

In creative writing, it is important to use active voice to make the writing more engaging and interesting. It also helps to make the point of the sentence clear and easy to understand. Here are some tips for using active voice in creative writing:

  • Use active voice to describe the actions and emotions of your characters.
  • Use active voice to create a sense of immediacy and urgency.
  • Use active voice to create a sense of drama and tension.

Summary

Active voice is a grammatical term used to describe a sentence in which the subject of the sentence performs the action. Using active voice in writing is generally preferred because it is more direct and concise than passive voice. It also puts emphasis on the subject and the action, making the sentence more engaging and interesting. Now that you know how it works, try using it on your language-learning journey!

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Comments

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Bi AYIMar 14th, 2024
clear and concise explanation of active voice