In which case, the subject is the action doer or the agent, whereas the object is the recipient of the action.
Common voice distinction in the various languages ranges from active, to the middle, to passive voices. In some languages such as the Latin, the distinctions are made by inflection, while in the English language the distinctions are made by syntactic variations.
Defining Active Voice
Every written sentence in English, on the very least, contains a subject and an action. A subject can be defined as the person or object the sentence is all about, while the action is basically what the subject did or happen to be doing.
When the sentence is written in an active voice, what that means is that the focus is on the subject of the sentence and NOT the action they’re doing. In other words, the subject is mentioned first, while their action is mentioned after them.
Example in a Sentence.
- I Run.
This is a complete sentence featuring the subject ‘I’ and an action ‘Run’.
As you can see, the ‘I’ is the subject behind the verb run. And since the sentence was written in the active, the subject was to be mentioned first so the reader can have an easy time understanding what the subject is all about.
Defining Passive Voice
There are times when a sentence will be written in passive. What this means is that the focus of the sentence has shifted from the subject to the action being performed. Meaning the sentence is expressing the action that’s being acted upon by the subject of the sentence.
So, in other words, the actioned is mentioned first and the subject later.
Example in a Sentence:
- Running is something I do.
Where running is the action and I the subject.
In this sentence, it’s pretty clear that the author is more interested in the action, run.
The sentence is considered passive since the person or objects performing the action is mentioned after the action and NOT the other way round.
Defining the Middle Voice
The Proto-Indo European laid a clear distinction between an active voice and the middle voice.
Speaking of which the middle voice is meant to signify action or the state in which the topical goal under discussion is the main subject of the action.
Example in a sentence:
- The chicken is eating the snake – active voice.
- The snake is being eaten – middle voice.
In the middle voice, the main point of focus is the action and NOT the recipient or the subject as with active and passive voice.
You’re however reminded that NOT all languages have voices.
Here’s an example of a sentence explaining the difference between an active voice and a passive one.
- A street urchin rescued the dog – active.
- The dog was rescued by a street urchin – passive.
As you can see, the action doesn’t change; what changes is the focus. Where the focus is on the doer of the action, the sentence becomes active. But where the focus is directed on the action instead, the sentence becomes passive.
In the sentences, the topicalized goal or the grammatical subject for that matter is the street urchin, while the recipient or the object or agent being acted upon is the dog.
Read this bearing in mind that you’re NOT necessarily required to express the object or agent while constructing a sentence in the passive.
- “The dog was rescued” is still passive.
Not all transitive verbs are meant to take an active or passive voice. A few exceptions that break the rule.
- A dozen people sleep in the hotel room – active voice.
- The hotel room is slept by a dozen people – the sentence becomes. grammatically wrong when expressed in the passive voice.
Why is the overuse of the Passive Voice Criticized in Writing?
Overuse of passive voice is strongly discouraged in writing because it creates confusion. In which case, you’re advised to write more in the active voice for the sake of creating the much-needed clarity in writing.
The use of passive voice also tends to encourage tautology or wordiness, where you’re using an excess amount of words to express a simple concept.
When to Use Passive Voice?
However, there’re some situations where the use of passive voice is encouraged. This is particularly the case in situations where you’re required to put some emphasis on the action, and NOT the subject.
It’s also more practical to use the passive voice where the subject or doer is NOT important and, for some reasons, you do not intend to mention them.
Lastly, a sentence written in passive voice tends to be more polite and less dramatic or aggressive compared to those in the active voice.
- Your stay is welcomed.
- Your debt will be paid.
- He was elected as the governor.
Changing a Sentence from Passive to Active Voice
Changing Passive voice into Active isn’t as complicated as some people love to assume. All you have to do is identify the subject of the sentence, the main action, and the object.
What follows is to rewrite the sentence by shifting your focus to the subject. Next, make the subject perform the action in the sentence and that’s pretty much like it.
- Our classroom windows were cleaned by the latecomers.
- The latecomers cleaned our classroom windows.
- A new bridge was promised to us by the governor.
- The state governor promised us a new bridge.
- It’s suggested that you apply for the new job.
- I suggest that you apply for a new job.
Rewriting from Active to Passive
Rewriting a sentence from active to passive is a no-brainer, as well. All you’re required to do is make the object in the sentence the subject while changing the verb to a ‘be’ verb followed by the past participle.
The subject of the sentence, on the other hand, can either be omitted or preceded by “by”.
Examples in a sentence:
- She wrote her mother a letter.
- A letter was written to her mother (by her).
- The tailor-made her a new dress.
- A new dress was made for her (by the tailor).
Recommended Video on Voice Change
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