Voice

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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: In a passive sentence, the verb is said to be in the passive voice. Here is an example of a verb in the passive voice: Put another way, the voice of a verb tells us whether the subject of the verb is acting or being acted upon.

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:

active voice example

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:

passive voice example

When To Use the Active and Passive Voice

When 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: Advantages of the passive voice:

Use Both in Your Writing

You 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: Now compare the mixed sentences telling the same information: There are two important things happening in our second example. First, we've made the Magna Carta the subject of the sentence to highlight what we're talking about. Second, we've ended our sentence talking about King John. This is important because when the reader starts the second sentence, it flows to He. It's very clear we're talking about King John because He is fresh in our minds.

Be Careful with Grammar Checkers

Grammar 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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See Also

What are verbs? What is the subject of a sentence? What is the object of a sentence? What is the active voice? What is the passive voice? What is an active sentence? What is a passive sentence?