When a sentence is written, it can either be written in active voice or passive voice.
In most cases, writing sentences in passive voice is discouraged because it can obscure the subject of the sentence, and confuse the reader. It also usually creates a wordy and awkward sentence construction.
Every sentence contains, at minimum, a subject and an action. The subject is the person or thing the sentence is about, and the action is what the subject is doing.
When a sentence is in active voice, the subject is doing the action and the subject typically comes before the action in the sentence. For example:
When a sentence is in passive voice, the subject is being acted on by the verb and the subject typically comes after the action. For example:
Some sentences also contain objects - the thing being acted upon. This can make it more difficult to determine whether the sentence is in passive voice. For example, here is a sentence in active voice:
That same sentence in passive voice reads:
Sometimes a sentence in passive voice does not necessarily sound "wrong" or wordy. However, it is still best to write in active voice when possible.
In order to recognize that a sentence is in passive voice, watch out for these keywords:
In order to change passive voice to active voice, you need to recognize what the subject of the sentence is and then rewrite the sentence so the subject is performing the action.
Let's use the following example to understand how to change passive voice to active voice:
Extensive training on the new safety procedures was required to be attended by the maintenance staff.
We can recognize that this sentence is in passive voice because the keyword was is used, and because it is not initially clear who or what this sentence is about. In order to correct the sentence:
Step One: Identify the subject of the sentence - who is doing an action? The training is not doing an action, so it can't be the subject. The only person or thing doing an action here is the maintenance staff. They are attending training. So, the maintenance staff is the subject of the sentence.
Step Two: Rewrite the sentence so the subject is performing the action. This sentence could be rewritten to active voice as follows:
The maintenance staff had to attend extensive training on the new safety procedures.
This rewrite makes it immediately clear to the reader who is doing what. The subject is doing the action.
Correct the following five sentences to practice changing passive to active voice. The answers are below: