Writing Topic: Passive and Active Voice

Return to Strategies, Tools and Handouts

 

PASSIVE AND ACTIVE VOICE

 

Download a PDF version

 

The interaction between the subject and verb of a sentence determines voice.  Put another way, to figure out voice in a sentence, ask yourself “does the subject of the sentence perform the action or receive it?” If the subject performs the action, the sentence is active; if the subject receives, then the sentence is passive.

Active VoicePassive Voice

Active Voice

In an active-voice sentence, the subject of the verb is performing an action:

Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale.

The researcher asks the subjects twenty simple questions.

A black car has hit my dog.

You should use active voice when you wish to emphasize the doer of the action.

Passive Voice

In a passive-voice sentence, the subject of the verb is receiving an action:

The Handmaid’s Tale was written by Margaret Atwood.

The subjects are asked twenty simple questions.

My dog has been hit by a black car.

You should use passive voice when you wish to emphasize the receiver of the action.

When to Use the Passive Voice
When to Avoid Passive Voice
Return to Strategies, Tools and Handouts