Can someone explain passive vs. active voice? Please explain the rule and provide an example. This is something I want to learn once and for all. I made it through a good college never really understanding the rule.

2 Answers
Mar 18, 2018

See explanation.


Active voice

In Active Voice sentences the subject is the person who is actually doing something. An example of Active Voice sdentence is:

John wrote a letter.

Here the person (John) is the subject of the sentence, while the thing on which John is acting (a letter) is a direct object.

Passive Voice

In the Passive Voice sentence the doer is either not mentioned at all or becomes only an object (usually addred with the word by)

A letter was written by John

The Passive Voice is used when the doer is either not known or it is something not human. Like in reporting about a disaster:

5 people were killed in a car accident.

It may also be used if the subject is not defined. Example:

Last year 5,000 houses were built in our town.

We do not know (and even if we knew we do not want to mention) who built the houses, so the Passive Voice is the easiest way to say that.

Mar 18, 2018

See explanation below:


Passive vs. active is a really hard concept to learn! Starting with some basic sentences, it'll hopefully get easier to understand. Firstly, you need to know these two things inside and out:

  • Active means that the subject is doing the action
  • Passive means that the action is being done to the subject

Here are some basic sentences:

#"The"# #stackrel("subject")overbrace("dog")# #stackrel("action")overbrace("bit")# #"the"# #stackrel("receiving the action")overbrace("man")#

#"The"# #stackrel("subject")overbrace("man")# #stackrel("action")overbrace("was bitten")# #"by the"# #stackrel("doing the action")overbrace("dog")#

Can you sorda see the difference? In the active sentence, the subject (dog) is doing the action (biting) TO the man. In the passive sentence, the subject (man) is receiving the action (biting) coming FROM the dog.

Here are some more examples:
Active: Jill ate her lunch at noon.
Passive: At noon, the lunch was eaten by Jill.

Active: The students took notes in class.
Passive: The notes were taken by the students in class.

Here is one really helpful tip to determine if a sentence is passive.

  • Passive sentences will usually have "by" phrase . In our examples, the passive sentences have "by the dog", "by Jill", and "by the students". This is usually an indicator of a passive sentence.