Syllabus bites: Active and passive voice


Active and passive voice

Knowledge and understanding about using active and passive voice will enhance effective writing.

In the active voice, the subject (or agent) is placed before the verb. The emphasis is on the subject who is doing the action.

The active voice generally has the following distinguishing features:

  • it has a subject who performs the action

  • the subject agent (doer) usually comes before the verb

  • it has an active verb

  • the order of the words in the sentence is usually: subject – verb – object.

In the passive voice, the object of an action is placed before the verb. The emphasis is on what is being done to the object of the sentence.

Active: The class discussed the project plan.

Passive: The project plan was discussed by the class.

In this example:

  • ‘The class’ is the subject or agent

  • ‘discussed’ is the action or verb

  • ‘the project plan’ is the object of that action

  • use of the active voice makes the sentence more direct, conversational and shorter.

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Text version (.pdf 187kB)