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Voice Matters: Mastering the Rhythms of English Grammar

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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Are you tired of stumbling over the mysteries of active and passive voice in English grammar? Well, say goodbye to confusion and hello to clarity with Edulyte’s expert guidance! With us, you can effortlessly craft sentences that captivate and engage others! 

Introduction to Voice in English Grammar: How to define voice?

Voice in English grammar pertains to the arrangement of the subject, the verb, and the object in a sentence to indicate whether the subject is performing the action (active voice) or receiving the action (passive voice). 

How Voice Affects the Relationship between the Subject and the Verb?

How can you define voice? Active passive voice significantly impacts the relationship between the subject and the verb in your sentence by altering their positions and emphasising different aspects of the described action. 

Example: She paints beautiful landscapes.

In this sentence, “She” (the subject) is performing the action of “painting” (the verb). The emphasis is on the subject as the agent of the action.

But in the sentence, Beautiful landscapes are painted by her, “Beautiful landscapes” (the subject) are receiving the action of “being painted” (the verb). The emphasis is on the action itself rather than the doer.

Active Voice and Passive Voice: Exclusive Examples To Aid Your Understanding

Active Voice:

In the active voice, the sentence’s subject performs the action expressed by the verb. This voice is direct, clear, and often preferred in writing as it highlights the doer of the action and presents information in a straightforward manner.

Examples of Active Voice:

  1. The chef prepares a delicious meal.
  2. She solved the challenging puzzle.

In these sentences, the subjects (“the chef” and “she”) are the ones performing the actions (“prepares” and “solved”).

Passive Voice:

In the passive voice, the sentence’s subject receives the action performed by the verb. This voice is used when the focus is on the action rather than the doer or when the doer is unknown or less critical.

Examples of Passive Voice:

  1. A delicious meal is prepared by the chef.
  2. The challenging puzzle was solved by her.

In these passive voice constructions, the emphasis is on the actions (“is prepared,” and “was solved”), and the subjects (“a delicious meal” and “the challenging puzzle”) become the recipients of those actions.

Understanding Active Voice: Easy Explanation and Voice Grammar Examples

In active voice sentences, the subject takes on the role of the “doer” or the agent of the action. Your sentence structure follows a subject-verb-object pattern, where the subject initiates the action and drives the sentence’s narrative.

Examples of Active Voice:

  1. She paints beautiful landscapes.
  2. The team completed the project ahead of schedule.

In each of these examples, the subject (“She” and “The team”) is actively acting (“paints” and”completed). This straightforward arrangement conveys a clear message about who is performing the action and what that action is.

Active Voice Creates Clear and Direct Sentences

  1. Clarity: Active voice directly links the subject and the action, leaving no room for ambiguity.

  2. Conciseness: Active voice tends to be more concise, as it eliminates unnecessary words and phrases that might arise from complex sentence structures in passive voice.

  3. Engagement: Active voice creates an engaged and dynamic tone, as the subject takes centre stage as the initiator of the action. 

  4. Effective Communication: Active voice is often the preferred choice for conveying instructions, giving commands, or narrating actions, as it minimises the risk of misinterpretation and enhances the impact of the message.

Understanding Passive Voice: Who Receives The Action?

In passive voice sentences, the subject takes on the role of the “receiver” rather than the “doer” of the action. The verb in the sentence reflects the action itself, while the agent (the entity performing the action) may be mentioned using the preposition “by” or omitted entirely. The object of the active voice sentence becomes the subject, and the verb is represented in its past participle form.

Examples of Passive Voice:

  1. A delicious cake was baked by my grandmother.
  2. The report was written by the research team.

In these examples, the focus is on the action (“was baked,” and “was written”), and the subjects (“a delicious cake,” “the report,” “the novel”) are receiving the actions rather than actively performing them.

Instances Where Passive Voice is Used to Shift Focus

  1. Emphasis on Action: Passive voice is used when the action itself is more important than the doer. 

  2. Unknown or Unimportant Doer: When the doer of the action is unknown, irrelevant, or not worth mentioning, passive voice helps keep the focus on the action. 

  3. Formal Tone: Passive voice can add a formal tone to the writing, making it suitable for academic papers, official documents, and professional communication.

Active Voice Words and Constructions

Below is a collection of common active voice words and their usage and techniques to identify active voice sentences in writing.

  1. create: She creates intricate artwork with precision.
  2. build: The construction team builds sturdy houses.
  3. teach: He teaches mathematics to high school students.
  4. design: The architect designs innovative structures.
  5. solve: They solve complex puzzles effortlessly.
  6. write: She writes captivating stories that captivate readers.
  7. perform: The orchestra performs enchanting melodies.
  8. organise: The event planner organises seamless gatherings.
  9. deliver: The courier delivers packages promptly.
  10. develop: The company develops cutting-edge software.

How to Identify Active Voice Sentences in Writing?

  1. Subject-Verb-Object Structure: Look for sentences where the subject (the “doer”) performs the action indicated by the verb on the object. Example: She (subject) teaches (verb) mathematics (object).

  2. Missing “By” Phrase: Active voice sentences often lack the “by” phrase indicating the action’s doer. Example: Active Voice – He (subject) builds (verb) sturdy houses (object). Passive Voice – Sturdy houses (subject) are built (verb) by him (agent).

  3. Verb Forms: Active voice verbs are typically in their base form (present tense) or past tense, depending on the context of the sentence.

Translating Passive Voice to Active Voice: The Step-by-Step Guide

Many English learners ask, “how to translate passive voice to active voice?”. Remember, translating is not like converting passive voice sentences to active voice. . Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to” translate” passive to active voice.

Step 1: Identify the Components: Start by identifying the key components of the passive voice sentence: the subject, the verb, the object, and the agent (if mentioned). 

Step 2: Determine the Doer: Identify the doer of the action, often found in the “by” phrase of the passive voice sentence. Step 3: Rewrite the Sentence: Restructure the sentence by making the doer of the action the subject of the sentence, followed by an appropriate active voice verb. 

Step 4: Add the Object: Place the original object of the passive voice sentence after the active voice verb. 

Voice Grammar Examples: Active Passive Voice Sentences and Their Impact

To enable your retention of the active-passive concept, Edulyte’s mentors present a collection of sentences. 

Examples of Active Voice:

  1. She teaches English to elementary students.
  2. The chef prepares a gourmet meal in the kitchen.
  3. The team completed the project ahead of the deadline.
  4. He solved the puzzle using his analytical skills.

Examples of Passive Voice:

  1. English is taught to elementary students by her.
  2. A gourmet meal is prepared in the kitchen by the chef.
  3. The project was completed ahead of the deadline by the team.
  4. The puzzle was solved using his analytical skills by him.

Impact of Using Active and Passive Voice in Different Contexts

Emphasis on the Doer vs. Action

Active Voice: Emphasises the doer of the action, bringing attention to who is acting. 

Passive Voice: Shifts focus to the action itself or the receiver of the action, minimising the emphasis on the doer.

Clarity and Directness

Active Voice: Provides direct and clear communication, making the message easier to understand. 

Passive Voice: Can sometimes lead to wordiness and indirectness, potentially making the sentence unclear.

Engaging vs. Formal Tone

Active Voice: Creates an engaging and immediate tone.

Passive Voice: Can lend a more formal and distant tone. 

Omission of the Doer

Active Voice: Always includes the doer of the action. 

Passive Voice: The doer can be omitted or placed at the end of the sentence.

Kinds of Voices in English Grammar: Reflexive and Causative Voice

Beyond the well-known active and passive voices, English grammar encompasses other kinds of voices.

Reflexive Voice:

The reflexive voice centres around the concept of an action being performed by the subject upon itself. Reflexive verbs are often accompanied by reflexive pronouns, like “myself,” “yourself,” “himself,” “herself,” “itself,” “ourselves,” “yourselves,” and “themselves.”

Examples of Reflexive Voice:

  1. She brushed herself off after the fall.
  2. They taught themselves how to play the guitar.

Causative Voice:

The causative voice involves expressing that someone or something causes another person to do an action. This voice employs verbs like “have,” “get,” “make,” and “let,” along with the base form of the verb.

Examples of Causative Voice:

  1. She had her car washed at the car wash.
  2. They made him clean his room.

Active vs. Passive Voice: When to Use Each?

Understanding when to use active and passive voice is essential for effective communication. 

Using Active Voice for Clarity and Emphasis

  1. Directness and Clarity: Choose active voice when presenting information directly. 

  2. Emphasis on the Doer: Active voice emphasises the person or entity acting. It is useful to highlight the agent responsible for the action.

  3. Engagement and Immediacy: Active voice creates a more engaging and immediate tone.

  4. Instructions and Directives: Active voice is excellent for giving instructions or commands, where clarity and precision are essential.

Identifying Situations for Passive Voice and Specific Effects

  1. Shift of Focus: Use passive voice to shift the focus from the doer of the action to the action itself or the recipient.

  2. Anonymity or Ambiguity: Passive voice is suitable when the doer of the action is unknown, irrelevant, or intentionally omitted.

  3. Formal Tone: Passive voice can add formality to writing, making it appropriate for academic, scientific, or official documents.

  4. Delicate Situations: Passive voice can soften blame or responsibility, making it useful when assigning blame could be sensitive.

Common Mistakes with Voice: What Can You Do Wrong and How To Avoid It?

Active and passive voice usage can sometimes pose challenges, leading to errors and confusion in writing. To help you avoid these pitfalls, let’s address some common mistakes and provide tips on how to avoid them.

Addressing Common Errors and Confusion

  1. Misidentifying Passive Voice: One common mistake is misidentifying passive voice constructions. Passive voice involves the subject receiving the action, not necessarily containing the verb “to be.” Ensure that the subject isn’t the one actively acting.

  2. Overusing Passive Voice: Relying excessively on passive voice can result in wordy and convoluted sentences. Aim for a balance between active and passive constructions to maintain readability.

  3. Ambiguous Pronouns: In passive voice, it’s crucial to clarify who the “doer” of the action is. 

  4. Weak Verbs in Active Voice: Using weak or vague verbs can diminish the impact of your writing. Opt for strong, descriptive verbs.

  5. Incorrect Tense Agreement: In passive voice, tense agreement can be tricky. Ensure that the verb agrees with the subject.
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Key Takeaways

Active Voice:

  • The subject performs the action.
  • Creates direct and engaging sentences.
  • Emphasises the “doer” of the action.
  • Ideal for clear and straightforward communication.

Passive Voice:

  • The subject receives the action.
  • Shifts focus on the action or recipient.
  • Useful for concealing the doer, emphasising results, or adding formality.
  • Can vary sentence structure and convey specific effects.

Benefits of Active Voice:

  • Enhances clarity and directness.
  • Engages readers with immediacy.
  • Maintains transparency of responsibility.
  • Works well for instructions and persuasive writing.

Benefits of Passive Voice:

  • Shifts focus for emphasis or intrigue.
  • Adds formality and objectivity.
  • Conceals the doer when necessary.
  • Highlights results or softens the impact.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How can I convert passive voice sentences to active voice?

Step 1: Identify the Components: Understand the basic structure of passive voice: subject + “to be” verb (is, am, are, was, were) + past participle verb + by + agent (optional).

Step 2: Determine the Doer: Find the “by” phrase (agent) in the passive voice sentence to identify the doer of the action. Note that sometimes the doer is not explicitly mentioned.

Step 3: Rearrange the Sentence: Reorganise the sentence to make the doer the subject, and choose an appropriate active voice verb that matches the tense of the passive verb.

Step 4: Remove “By” and the Passive Verb: Eliminate the “by” phrase, the “to be” verb, and the past participle verb.

Step 5: Place the Object after the Verb: Keep the original object after the active voice verb.

Step 6: Review for Clarity: Ensure the sentence maintains its clarity and meaning after the conversion.

What are some examples of active voice sentences?

Certainly! Here are some examples of active voice sentences:

  1. She paints beautiful landscapes.
  2. The company launched a new product yesterday.
  3. He solved the challenging puzzle in record time.
What are some examples of passive voice sentences?
  1. Beautiful landscapes are painted by her.
  2. A new product was launched by the company yesterday.
  3. The challenging puzzle was solved in record time.
What are the benefits of using active voice in writing?

Here are some advantages of using active voice:

  1. Clarity and Directness
  2. Engaging and Dynamic Tone
  3. Transparency of Responsibility
  4. Shorter, More Concise Sentences
  5. Effective Communication of Instructions
What are the benefits of using passive voice in writing?
  1. Shifting Focus
  2. Objectivity and Formality
  3. Concealing the Doer
  4. Emphasising Results
  5. Softening the Impact
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