Active and Passive Voice

English is a beautiful language. Active & Passive voice form integral parts of sentence communication.

What a beautiful language English is! Sentence communication is formed by the integral parts of Active & Passive voice.

The first statement, which was direct, was the ACTIVE voice & the second version of the same sentence was passive voice.

The simplest way to get the basic of Active & Passive voice is that – Active voice is always direct & in most of the cases it is the shortest sentence formation possible for a given set of words; passive voice on the other hand is indirect & had a third-party tone to it. In the above example, the first statement of active voice is just a statement but the first statement of passive voice is an exclamatory statement.

ACTIVE: “He gave me the book.”

PASSIVE: “I was given the book by him”

Here it is important to note the use of the word ‘by’. The use of ‘by’ is specific to passive voice & gives it the indirect-address we spoke about previously.

ACTIVE: “We shall learn about active & passive voice today.”

PASSIVE: “Active & passive voice shall be learnt by us today.”

Active voice has three important markers to it – subject, transitive verb & an object [at least one of each].

Here, in the above example, ‘We’ becomes the subject denoting the main party; ‘active & passive voice’ becomes the object towards which the command or action is directed&‘shall learn’ becomes the transitive verb, which denotes the transition of action from subject to object.

A few more examples for identifying this concept are:-


‘She is writing a letter.’

‘He wore a blue shirt.’

‘They have been practising a group dance.’

Subject is essentially the main protagonist in the sentence, the main person or thing who is doing or directing the action. Transitive verb is the action that is being conducted. Object is the object of impact; the person or entity on which the action is been carried out by the subject.

Like passive voice, active voice can be identified by the presence of these three markers in the sentence.

In passive voice, the use of ‘by’ might also be accompanied by a past participle like – had been, was being, would have been etc.

For instance,


‘They had been thrown out of the college for misbehaviour.’

‘The lunch was being served by them.’

‘She would have been the head girl if not for her arrogance.’

ACTIVE VOICE for the same sentences:

‘The college threw them out for misbehaviour.’

‘They served the lunch.’

‘Her arrogance stopped her from becoming the head girl.’

It is important to note that the markers of active voice aren’t always very direct. In case of the last sentence under active voice, ‘becoming’ & ‘stopped’ becomes the verb, ‘head girl’ is the object; in case of subject, there is no use of direct second-person denotations to refer to the person. Hence, the ‘her’ after stopped becomes the subject word here for it is directly connected to one of the verbs – ‘stopped’. ‘Arrogance’ here becomes the abstract noun.

Sometimes, passive sentences do not have the word ‘by’. In such a case,

ACTIVE: ‘Someone gave me a blank envelop.’

Here, we are able to identify all three markers of active voice. ‘Someone’ becomes the secondary subject.

PASSIVE: ‘I was given a blank envelop.’

Here, there is no use of the word ‘by’. Moreover, there is absence of the secondary subject which was earlier mentioned in the active voice.

Although this sentence could have also been written as: ‘I was given a blank envelop by someone.’

Here, the sentence completion is to be noted, where the sentence could also be written in the second format with the use of by; but, in the absence of ‘by’, the prediction of such a use can help one determine the voice of the sentence.

‘Someone’ has not been given much importance, considering it being the secondary subject while ‘me’ or ‘I’ being the primary subject; the ignorance of the secondary subject from the passive voice sentence formation is acceptable for advance writing.

Also, sometimes, the verb in the passive statement is followed by the use of ‘to’.

For instance,

PASSIVE: ‘I was been asked to inform you about the match.’

ACTIVE: ‘They asked me to inform you about the match.’

Here again, the previous discussion about ignoring the secondary subject during sentence formation applies. The use of ‘to’ in the passive sentence is also to be noted.


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