passive voice

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One of the two “voices” of verbs (see also active voice). A verb is in the passive voice when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb. For example, in “The ball was thrown by the pitcher,” the ball (the subject) receives the action of the verb, and was thrown is in the passive voice. The same sentence cast in the active voice would be, “The pitcher threw the ball.”


How Do You Fix Passive Voice In A Sentence?

What is "passive voice" and why exactly should we never use it?

Apostrophes can be tricky; prove you know the difference between "it’s" and "its" in this crafty quiz!
Question 1 of 8
On the farm, the feed for chicks is significantly different from the roosters’; ______ not even comparable.

notes for passive voice

It is usually preferable to use the active voice wherever possible, because it gives a sense of immediacy to the sentence.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


What is passive voice?

Passive voice is when the subject of a sentence receives the action of the verb rather than performing the action.

In grammar, voice indicates the relationship between the subject of the sentence and its verb. English has two voices. In active voice, the subject performs the verb, as in Toni bake cakes. In this example Toni is doing the action of the verb (baking cakes).

In passive voice, a subject the verb’s action performed on it. It receives the action, as in: Cakes are baked by Toni. Here, Toni is still doing the action, but cakes is the subject. They are receiving Toni’s action.

A sentence written in the passive voice often uses the verb be. Also the performer of the action is also in a preposition phrase, as in I was hit by snowballs.

The simplest way to determine if a sentence is in the passive voice is to read the sentence and think about who is doing what. If the performer of the action comes after the verb, the sentence is most likely in the passive voice and not active.

Why is passive voice important?

The phrase passive voice has been used as a grammar since at least 1634. The word passive is used to indicate that the subject is having an action done to it rather than being the one doing an action.

Writers, speakers, and students are often advised not to use too much passive voice. Sentences written in the passive voice are usually harder to understand, and some sound awkward even if they are grammatically correct, as in The world was traveled all around by us.

However, there are times where passive voice is appropriate. The main reason you would use the passive voice is to emphasize something besides the performer of an action, as when the receiver of the action is more important, as in For five thousand years the magic lamp had not been touched by anyone.

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The passive voice can also omit the performer of an action entirely. You might do this when you don’t know who performed the action, as in The town was ransacked. You might also omit the performer when they aren’t as important as the receiver of the action, as in The building was torn down yesterday.

What are real-life examples of passive voice?

The following chart shows sentences written in both the passive voice and active voice.

Insects are eaten by birds. Birds eat insects.
My first day of school is something I will never forget. I will never forget my first day of school.
Meowing was done by the cat. The cat meowed.

Writing students are taught to avoid using too much passive voice.


What other words are related to passive voice?

Quiz yourself!

Is the following sentence written in the passive voice?

The pie was thrown by the clown.

How to use passive voice in a sentence