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Grammar Lesson: Active and Passive Voices

By — John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Updated on Dec 15, 2010

Voice is a verb form that indicates if the sentence's subject performs or receives an action.

There are two types of voice—active voice and passive voice.

  • If the sentence's subject performs the action, the sentence is written in the active voice. "The pilot landed the plane" is written in the active voice since the subject (pilot) performed the action (landed the plane).
  • If the sentence's subject receives the action, the sentence is written in the passive voice. "The plane was landed by the pilot" is written in the passive voice since the subject (plane) received the pilot's action (landed the plane).

Note: Good writers use the active voice whenever possible. However, if you want to emphasize a specific point, you can use the passive voice. That is why the sentence, "An exciting program was aired by our local television station," is acceptable, even though it is written in the passive voice. The writer wants to emphasize the program, not the television station.

Activity

Indicate, with an A for active voice, or a P for passive voice, the voice of the verbs in these sentences.

  1. ____ The construction worker heard the noise.
  2. ____ The noise was heard by the construction worker.
  3. ____ Our contest was won by Timbo.
  4. ____ Timbo won our contest.
  5. ____ A new SUV was purchased by that family down the block.

Answers

  • The sentences written in the active voice are numbers 1 and 4.
  • The sentences written in the passive voice are numbers 2, 3, and 5.
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