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Active Sentence in English Grammar

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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What is an active sentence?

An active sentence is a sentence that is written in an active voice, which means that the subject of the sentence performs an action described by the verb. So the object, that is the receiver of the action, comes right after the action is performed. A very simple way to remember is that the subject comes before the verb in an active sentence. Like if your verb is “ate” and your subject is “John”, then the sentence construction would be “John ate an apple.” 

A few more examples of active sentences are:

  • The magician pulled a pigeon from his hat.
  • Betty threw a ball at the wall.
  • Sophie played her piano every morning.

Importance of active sentences in writing

Active sentences use active voice and an active sentence helps in ensuring clarity by making the objective of the action in the sentence clear to the reader. So the active sentence puts more emphasis on the subject that precedes the verb, thus, making the sentence more clear. 

Benefits of using Active sentences

The key benefits of using active sentences in writing or sentences are that they are more direct, easier to understand, descriptive, to the point, more action-focused, and less robotic or wordy which eliminates any confusion. 

  • Active sentences get the point across faster because it is so focused on the subject and then on the verb, telling us about the action performed in the sentence. So the efficiency is higher as it signals directness and strength instead of passivity in the sentence. You use fewer words and get your point across faster.

  • On the Contrary, Passive sentences can be a little confusing because they are wordy and too many words might cause the reader to get a little confused about the point that is being expressed. Active sentences are to the point and use fewer words, so they are less confusing.

  • Active verbs are more descriptive and depict the action immediately. For example, active verbs – wrote, ran, pushed, and chased – are all very easy to understand and help the user to immediately identify the action.

  • Active sentences are more action-oriented, so they put the main focus on the subject and the action the subject is performing. For example, it is easier to understand “Mary pushed the stroller.” instead of “The stroller was being pushed by Mary.” So the focus is on the subject and the action and with so few words, it can easily be explained. 

Explanation of active sentences

An active sentence is where the subject precedes the verb that depicts the action and purpose of the sentence. In an active sentence, there are three components-

  • A subject (who is performing the action)
  • Active verb (the action that is being performed)
  • The object of the sentence. 

So if we take out the subject to be “Max” and our verb to be “Kicked” and the object to be “Ball”, then we can construct an active sentence as “Max kicked the ball.” (Subject – Verb – Object)

Common types of active sentence examples include:

  • The dog ate the bone (Where the dog is the subject and the action performed is eating, which is depicted by the verb “ate”)
    A passive note of this sentence would be “The bone was eaten by the dog” which is wordy and can get confusing.
  • In 1938, German Magazine chose Adolf Hitler as their Man of the Year. (The subject here is the German Magazine and the action performed is chosen)

Active vs Passive Sentences

In an active sentence, the subject precedes the verb, while in a passive sentence, the verb precedes the subject. Here are some examples to help you understand it better! Active and passive sentences differ from the objective focus of the sentence.

Active Sentence Passive sentence
Mary broke the piano
The piano was broken by Mary
John ate the pie
The pie was eaten by John
Jeremy kicked the ball
The ball was kicked by Jeremy
Max released the article without permission
The article was released without permission by Max
The burglar stole the money
The money was stolen by the burglar

Tips for writing active sentences

Techniques for converting passive sentences into active sentences:

For a passive sentence, the most important reason for the confusion is the wordiness of the sentence. Active sentences eliminate that confusion because the entire sentence is very action-oriented and direct. There are some easy ways of converting passive sentences and active sentences from one to another:

  • Move the active sentence’s direct object into the subject slot of the sentence, which is before the verb.
  • Place the subject into the phrase that ends with a preposition or the action of the verb.
  • Avoid auxiliary verbs and make sure the main verb depicts the action properly. 

Common pitfalls to avoid while making active sentences

  • Remove the auxiliary verb like “be” from the sentence.
  • Avoid putting the subject after the verb.
  • Move the active sentence’s subject into the primary subject slot.

Best practices for incorporating active sentences in your writing

In passive writing, you might find the object as the first noun instead of the subject. Reversing helps in making it an active sentence. Here are some tips that can help you in incorporating active sentences in your writing:

  • Put the subject right at the beginning of the sentence. Example: “Mary played the piano.”, “Jeremy kicked the ball.”, “Max broke the window.”

  • Ensure that there is a subject.  If your sentence is like “Your room must be cleaned before leaving”, you can turn it into an active sentence by saying “You must clean your room before leaving.”

  • Avoid passive linking verbs like “is”, “are”, “should be” etc. 

  • Use strong, specific verbs: Instead of using passive constructions like “was written by” or “was created by,” use active verbs like “wrote” or “created” to convey action and agency.

  • Use concrete nouns: Active sentences are more effective when they use concrete, specific nouns that give the reader a clear idea of what is happening.

  • Vary sentence length: Mixing up the size of your sentences can help keep your writing engaging and dynamic. Short active sentences can create a sense of urgency or excitement, while longer sentences can convey more complex ideas.

  • Avoid excessive use of passive voice: While passive constructions can be helpful in certain situations, overuse of passive voice can make your writing seem weak or passive.

Identifying active vs passive voice sentences

Complicated sentences, with too many words and auxiliary verbs, can make the sentence passive. Here are some examples that can help you identify the active sentences from passive sentences.

Active Sentence Passive sentence
The subject in the sentence is performing the action
Action is done upon the sentence's subject
The subject of the sentence is followed by the verb
The subject of the sentence is preceded by the verb
The receiver of action in the sentence is preceded by the verb
The receiver of the action is followed by the verb in the sentence
The meaning is direct, using fewer words
The meaning can be confusing as the sentence becomes wordy
The tone is subjective and full of authority
The tone is neutral in most cases or objective

Example 1

  • Active Sentence: Many people eat Italian cuisine
  • Passive Sentence: Italian cuisine is eaten by many people. 

Example 2

  • Active sentence: Grandfather is feeding the chickens.
  • Passive Sentence: The chickens are being fed by grandfather.

Example 3

  • Active sentence: We must avoid these mistakes.
  • Passive sentence: These mistakes must be avoided by us. 

Note the use of subject and verb placement in both sentences and how the active sentence is more action-oriented than the passive sentence. 

active vs passive sentences infographic

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Key Takeaways

  1. Active sentences are more direct and less wordy.

  2. Active sentences are more action-oriented. 

  3. The subject comes before the word.

  4. Axillary and linked verbs are avoided. 

  5. Active sentences put forth the point of the sentences more quickly.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I identify an active sentence in a sentence structure?

An active sentence is mostly depicted by using the subject right before the verb. So the sentence starts with the subject and then the verb which depicts the action of the subject. This makes it more clear to the user.

Are there any situations where passive sentences are preferred over active sentences?

Yes, in sentences where you want to focus on the action instead of the doer of the action, you must use a passive sentence instead of an active sentence. The objective depends on what you want your readers to be focused on. 

How can I make my writing more engaging using active sentences?

Active sentences make the content more action focused and direct. So the user can be more focused on the action and the content becomes engaging because you do not have to read too many words to get your point across. You can say small sentences and make the reader understand the point you are expressing. 

How to make a passive sentence active?

To make passive sentences active, place the subject before the verb, avoid using auxiliary verbs, and try to not use any linking verbs.

Where can I find examples of questions involving active sentences to help me understand them better?

The best way to learn is through practice. Following are the questions about active sentences. Attempt them to test your knowledge. 

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