Active/Passive Voice

Voice vs. Mood

Sentences in English can be one of four moods: Indicative, Imperative, Interrogative, and Subjunctive. These four moods reflect different relationships between writer/speaker and reader/listener.


He came to the game. (Indicative)
Come to the game! (Imperative)
Will you come to the game? (Interrogative)
It would have been better if you had come to the game. (Subjunctive)

Indicative and interrogative sentences can also be constructed in two different voices. These two voices reflect different ways of focusing the reader/listener’s attention.

In active voice, the subject of the clause performs the action expressed in the verb. There may or may not be objects present in the clause.


The boy enjoyed the [game.]
Did the boy enjoy the [game?]

In passive voice, the subject of the clause receives the action performed by object. There is always an implied object, even if it is not present in the clause.


The [game] was enjoyed by the boy.
Was the [game] enjoyed by the boy?

Transforming Active Voice to the Passive Voice
Place the object in the subject position.
Add a “to be” verb in an appropriate tense.
Add the past participle form of the main verb.
(Optional) Place the subject as the object of the preposition by.

Choosing Active vs. Passive

Active voice is used for most non-scientific writing. Using active voice for the majority of your sentences makes your meaning clear for readers, and keeps the sentences from becoming too complicated or wordy. In scientific writing, however, passive voice is more readily accepted since using it allows one to write without using personal pronouns or the names of particular researchers as the subjects of sentences. This practice helps to create the appearance of an objective, fact-based discourse because writers can present research and conclusions without attributing them to particular agents. Instead, the writing appears to convey information that is not limited or biased by individual perspectives or personal interests.

Transforming Passive Voice to Active Voice

Identify the “actor” in the sentence. Place it in the subject position.
Remove the “to be” verb and the past participle ending.
Move the object receiving the action of the verb to the object position.


Maggie | 2016
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