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What Is Voice in Grammar?Voice is the term used to describe whether a verb is active or passive.
In an active sentence, the verb is said to be in the active voice. Here is an example of a verb in the active voice:
- The dog ate the bone. (This is an active sentence because the subject (the dog) is performing the action of the verb (to eat).)
- The bone was eaten by the dog. (This is a passive sentence because the subject (the bone) is not performing the action of the verb (to eat). The action of the verb is being done to the subject.)
What Is the Active Voice?If the subject is performing the action, then the verb is said to be in the active voice. Look at this:
What Is the Passive Voice?If the subject is having the action done to it, then the verb is said to be in the passive voice. Look at this:
When To Use the Active and Passive VoiceWhen do you use the active voice and when do you use the passive voice? As a general principle, you should opt for the active voice over the passive voice because it is more direct and easier to read. However, there are other considerations too. Here is a list of advantages for the active voice and the passive voice to help you decided which to use.
Advantages of the active voice:
- Active sentences are shorter.
- Active sentences are more direct. (This ensures the subject takes responsibility for the action.)
- Active sentences are more engaging for the reader.
- Active sentences are often less confusing and less ambiguous.
- Active sentences allow you to express an authoritative tone.
- Passive sentences allow the subject to avoid responsibility for the action.
- Passive sentences can show a neutral or objective tone.
- Passive sentences are used when the subject is obvious, unimportant, or unknown.
- Passive sentences allow you to shift the focus of the subject. (This allows you to highlight what is truly important for your sentence.)
Use Both in Your WritingYou should use both the active voice and the passive voice in your writing to control the flow of text and to stress the most important parts of your sentences. Look at these sentences written in active voice:
- King John signed the Magna Carta in 1215. He placed limits on his powers and proclaimed certain liberties.
- In 1215, the Magna Carta was signed by King John. He placed limits on his powers and proclaimed certain liberties.
Be Careful with Grammar CheckersGrammar checkers will often highlight passive sentences like they're errors.
This happens because they were written for the business environment, where bosses often demand clear, direct language. However, there are advantages to the passive voice too, so don't be bullied by your grammar checker. If you like your passive sentence, ignore your grammar checker.
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