Difference Between Active Voice and Passive Voice

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: June 06, 2023

       

Difference Between Active Voice and Passive Voice

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Introduction

English grammar is a complex subject that needs to be understood properly to avoid any errors in your writing or speaking. Thus, there are certain principles in the structure of sentences that one must abide by to deliver a properly formatted sentence. In this article, we will discuss one of the most significant elements of English grammar writing- the Active and passive voice. The voice of a verb in a sentence tells the reader whether the action is being carried out by the subject or is being performed upon the subject. The passive voice and active voice are the two voice types in English. It's common to utilize the passive voice in writing to create clearer, more elegant sentences, but it's crucial to use it judiciously. The active voice is better for most sorts of writing since it is more straightforward and crisper.

Active voice- Writing in the active voice is a style that shows the subject performing the action suggested by the verb and taking the object directly. The person or thing we are speaking about is known as the subject, and the person or thing that the given action is directed at is known as the object.

Passive voice- The form of writing known as "passive voice" is used when we emphasize the action, or the verb and its accompanying object, rather than the subject. When the actor is unknown or unimportant or when you wish to focus on an individual or object on which the action occurred, you use the passive voice. It may also be employed when a universal truth or fact is being discussed.

Examples-

Active- They will complete the work Passive- The work will be completed by them.

Active- My friend is eating pizza. Passive- Pizza is being eaten by my friend.

Active- Our boss invited us to the party. Passive- We were invited by our boss to the party.

Active Voice vs Passive Voice

The main difference which distinguishes both the forms is that in ‘Active voice’ the main focus is on the doer of the action or the subject that the verb describes. It is used to make our writing simple and direct. Whereas, in the ‘Passive voice’ focus is on the verb or the action and the object rather than the main subject of the sentence. We use it more in creative or stylistic writing or legal writing.

Examples-

Active- My brother helped me with my assignment. Passive- I was helped by my brother in my assignment.

Active- She is buying a new dress for her birthday. Passive- A new dress is being bought by her for her birthday.

Active- I spent my savings on this car. Passive- My savings were spent on this car by me.

Difference between Active voice and Passive voice in Tabular Form

Parameters of comparisonActive voicePassive voice
DefinitionThe term "active voice" describes a sort of voice in which the subject does the action indicated by the verb.When using “passive voice, the subject plays the role of the action's recipient.
Focuses onThe subject is the focus where it acts on the verb.The subject is a recipient as the verb acts upon the subject and focuses on the object or its action.
PositionSince the subject is the main element on which the action is being performed it appears at the beginning.The object is the one on which the action is being performed, thus it appears first followed by the subject in a sentence.
DenotesIt is used to denote a direct and a clear toneIt is used to denote a subtle, indirect, or weak tone.
ExamplesMy friends are playing chess.The teacher called all the students for the assembly.Dad gave Mom a surprise on their anniversary.They are making flower potsChess is being played by my friends.All the students were called by the teacher for the assembly.Mom was given a surprise by Dad on their anniversary.Flower pots are being made by them.

What is ‘Active voice’?

When a sentence uses the active voice, it means that the noun or pronoun that serves as the sentence's subject is the one who acts. To put it another way, the subject either does the action or reacts to the verb. Most of the sentence structures we encounter on a daily basis are in the active voice. Sentences in the active voice are more concise and straightforward than those in the passive voice. They are less vague and misleading as a result. The easiest technique to tell if a sentence is active is to first determine who the subject is and then ask whether the subject is acting in the sentence. The action taker and the action recipient are placed at the beginning and end of the sentence, respectively, in an active voice sentence.

The structural formula of an active voice sentence is-

Active voice= subject+ verb + object

What is ‘Passive voice’?

The subject is affected by the action or verb in the sentence when the sentence is written in the passive voice. It is also possible to say that the passive voice shows that the sentence's subject is no longer active but passive. The action's doer comes after the verb, and the action's receiver comes first in the phrase. It is critical to emphasize that while writing a passive sentence, the writer must include both the proposition "by" and the verb "to be." The verb and the recipient of the action are highlighted in passive sentences. They are more reserved and convey a tone that is neutral or objective. Sometimes, the item or person doing the activity can be left out of a sentence. It is described as weak and subtle in its tone of expression.

The structural formula of a passive voice sentence is-

Passive voice= object + verb + subject

Rules to follow when converting from Active to Passive voice

There are adjustments made to the tenses and pronouns used in sentences when switching from the active voice to the passive voice or vice versa.

The change of pronouns consists of-

Active voicePassive voice
IMe
HeHim
ItIt
SheHer
WeUs
TheyThem 
  • The first thing that you have to remember while changing a sentence from active to passive is to interchange their object and subject with each other.
  • All that is required to change the active voice into the passive voice is to change the primary verb into its past participle or third form. The past participle of the primary verb is its third form.
  • When modifying the tense of the main verb, be sure to substitute an auxiliary verb that preserves the tense that the sentence expresses.
  • We use the preposition ‘by’ before the subject while changing from active to passive voice in a sentence.
  • Don’t forget to mention an adverb if there is any in an active voice while converting into passive, you cannot just drop an adverb while changing the structure.

The following structural formulas are followed while changing from active to passive voice.

Simple present tense:

Active voice- Subject + verb + object

Passive voice- object + is/am/are + past form of the verb + by + subject

Example- She plays the instrument                 

The instrument is played by her.

Present continuous tense:

Active voice- subject + is/am/are + present participle form of verb + object

Passive voice- object + is/am/are + being + past form of the verb + by + subject

Example- Rajiv is playing the guitar.                 

The guitar is being played by Rajiv.

Present perfect tense:

Active voice- subject + has/have + past participle form of verb + object

Passive voice- object+ has/have + been + past participle form of verb + by + subject

Example- She has attended the classes.                 

The classes have been attended by her.

Simple past tense:

Active voice – subject + past simple form of verb + object

Passive voice – object + was/were + past participle form of verb + by + subject

Example- Teacher scolded the students                 

The students were scolded by the teacher.

Past continuous tense:

Active voice – subject + was/were + present participle form of verb + object

Passive voice- object + was/were + being + past participle form of verb + by + object

Example- She was helping her friends                 

Her friends were being helped by her.

Past perfect tense:

Active voice- subject + had + past participle form of verb + object

Passive voice- object + had been + past participle form of verb + by + subject

Example – My mother had drunk this coffee.                  

This coffee had been drunk by my mother.

Simple future tense:

Active voice- subject + will + verb + object

Passive voice- object + will be + past participle form of verb + by + subject

Example – I will call you.                   

You will be called by me.

Future perfect tense:

Active voice- subject + will have + past participle form of verb + object

Passive voice- object + will have been + past participle form of verb + by + subject

Example – She will have to attend the classes.                  

The classes will have been attended by her.

Main differences between Active voice and passive voice (in points)

  • The active voice is used when the subject of the phrase executes or completes the activity. On the other hand, a statement is said to use the passive voice when the subject receives the action.
  • A sentence written in the active voice has a subject that acts on the verb, whereas a sentence written in the passive voice has the verb acting on the subject.
  • In an active voice, the subject in a sentence appears at the start of a sentence as it indicates the action verb. Whereas, in the passive voice the subject appears at last as the action is acted upon it and the object appears first.
  • Active voice is said to be more direct and clear to the users of grammar while passive voice is a bit unclear, weak, and invasive way of expression.
  • Examples of ‘Active voice’ – My mother purchased a new dress.  - She is playing volleyball.  - I am learning Spanish.
  • Examples of ‘Passive voice’- A new dress was purchased by my mother.  - Volleyball is being played by her. - Spanish is being learned by me.

Conclusion

Understanding the principles of English grammar can be confusing sometimes, but they are essential for improving your writing skills. Parts of speech play a significant role in the structuring of a sentence. Thus, it is important to grasp the concept of using the right part of speech at the right place. In this article, we discussed one of the most important topics of English grammar- the difference between ‘Active voice’ and ‘passive voice’. In a sentence, the verb form that indicates whether the subject is the performer or the recipient of the action is referred to as the verb's "voice." The relationship between an action and its participants in an expression is expressed by the ‘voice’ of a verb.

In a sentence written in the active voice, the subject frequently performs the action or comments. The subject is placed first in this structure, then the verb, and then any additional material. Active voice is said to be of a more direct and clear tone.

On the contrary, with passive voice, the subject of a phrase receives the action rather than performing it. As the object is the one performing the action verb in a sentence it appears at the beginning followed by the verb, preposition ‘by’, and at last the subject appears. Passive voice is said to be more indirect and wordier as compared to active voice.

Examples-

  • She is playing the piano. The piano is being played by her.
  • My mother cleans the kitchen every morning The kitchen is cleaned by my mother every morning.
  • What are you playing? What is being played by you?
  • He plays cricket. Cricket is played by him.

References

  1. https://grammarist.com/grammar/active-voice-passive-voice/  
  2. https://www.econtentpro.com/blog/difference-between-active-and-passive-voice/112  
  3. https://byjus.com/english/active-and-passive-voice/
  4. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/active-vs-passive-  
  5. https://www.eurocentres.com/blog/whats-the-difference-between-the-active-and-passive-voice

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