Active and Passive Voice

Voice Matters: Navigating the Active and Passive voice for Effective Communication

Active and Passive Voice

When learning English, you will learn about active and passive voice. This grammar aspect is more prominent as part of the written technique. However, you will find it in regular conversation as well.

These voices are very common but most people hardly notice the differences. But it’s time to learn more about them to give your communication an impact and help you deliver the right message.

What Are the Differences Between Active and Passive Voice

In short, the difference between active and passive is all about the message you’re about to say. But there is more than just who does what, as passive voice also has its usages. Several situations may require you to use passive voice instead of active.

1. The Sentence Focus

You can tell if a sentence is using passive or active voice by paying attention to who’s doing the activity. In an active sentence, the focus is on the subject as the one doing the activity. While in a passive sentence, they are defining the object more. You can take a look at these sentences.

Maria drives the blue car,

The blue car is driven by Maria.

The first sentence is an active voice since you can see that Maria as the subject is doing the activity. While in the second sentence, the focus is on the blue car as the one that Maria drives. It gives the impression that there is something special about the car than in the first sentence.

2. The Sentence’s Purpose

Each voice has different purposes, but to put it simply, an active voice is when you make a direct and simple statement. To reiterate the previous point, the active voice’s focus is on the subject. That is why, when you want to deliver a straightforward message, you will use active voice.

As for the passive voice, However, Active voice is when you make a direct and simple statement. When you want to be straightforward in delivering the message, you can have the

3. Verb Tenses

You may think that active voice is only in simple present tense because it fits the structure. But there is a passive voice for all tenses. The difference is in the verb form since the passive voice uses participle or verb form two.

Take a look at these two sentences,

Maria loves Mike.

Mike is loved.

Both sentences are in the present tense. But the second sentence is a passive voice since they use the past form of the verb and put the focus on Mike as the object.

Most people think that the passive voice always has “by” to show that the object is the sentence’s focus. But the truth is, passive voice relies more on using to be with a participle. Here are several more variations on the passive voice in various tenses.

  1. Mike is being loved.
  2. Mike has been loved.
  3. Mike was loved.
  4. Mike will be loved.

When You Should Use Passive Voice

Naturally, active voice is the most common form of daily conversation. It is how you learn the basic English grammar. But there are times when you need to use passive voice instead. In some instances, passive works better than active. Here are several examples of when passive works better than active.

  1. When you want to emphasize the receiver

Sometimes, the receiver is the focus rather than the doer. You can see the sentences around Mike in the previous point as an example. In all of those sentences, Mike is the receiver and becomes the focus of affection.

Another example is when you say “cheatings are not tolerated” instead of “I don’t tolerate cheating”. The focus is on cheating as the receiver and it implies that there will be consequences when cheating occurs. It also sounds more impactful than the active voice.

  1. When you don’t know who is the doer or do not want to mention them

For times when you don’t know who did what, passive voice is the best method to structure a sentence. This is also the case when the doer is a vague object or an idea. You can use passive voice to get the message across and keep the focus on the person or object that receives the action.

  1. To avoid using I as the subject

Passive voice is common in science and newspapers where they need to make the delivery as objective as possible. This technical writing avoids using I altogether, which may turn the piece into an opinion instead of a news or scientific piece.

It also works in a non-formal situation when you don’t want to sound as if you’re the one who said the opinion. For example, instead of saying “I made a mistake”, you can say “Mistakes are made”

How to Switch Passive Voice to Active?

One serious drawback of passive voice is that it can sound very confusing and wordy. Therefore, you need to switch the sentence to an active one. But it can be difficult when you don’t know where to start. After all, switching between the voices is not as easy as moving the subject and removing “by”.

To switch passive voice to active, you need to know the doer. After you identify the doer, you can transform the sentence or passage to an active voice and make the message more impactful.

This is crucial when you are writing argumentative essays or an opinion piece and taking quotations from a journal. Rather than copying what the journal says, you can rewrite it to an active voice and include your thoughts.

Learning about voices in English grammar means you are learning how to make your message far more impactful. These voices are crucial to help you get the point across with less confusion. Even though passive voice may sound a bit complicated at first, it also can be straightforward.

Whether it’s written or spoken form, you can comfortably switch active and passive voice based on needs. You can easily switch your tone from more confident and persuasive to objective and vice versa.