Active and Passive Voice

The verbs in every sentence communicate a mood as well as a voice. This article will help us effectively understand, identify, and utilize these different moods and voices.


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

The indicative mood makes a statement. The imperative mood gives a command. The interrogative mood asks a question. The subjunctive mood makes a hypothetical statement or speculates about something alternate to reality.


Indicative: He came to the game.

Imperative: Come to the game!

Interrogative: Will you come to the game?

Subjunctive: It would have been better if you had come to the game. 


Indicative and interrogative sentences can also be constructed in two different voices: active voice and passive voice. 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 played (the game).

Did the boy play (the game)?

In passive voice, the subject of the clause receives the action performed by the 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 Passive Voice

In order to change active voice into passive voice: 

  1. Identify the object. 
  2. Place the object in the subject position.
  3. Add a “to be” verb in an appropriate tense.
  4. Add the past participle form of the main verb.
  5. (Optional) Place the original subject as the object of the preposition.
  6. (Optional) Add the second prepositional phrase. 


1. Johnny gave the dog a treat. 

2. A treat 

3. A treat was 

4. A treat was given 

5. A treat was given by Johnny 

6. A treat was given by Johnny to the dog. 

Transforming Passive Voice to Active Voice

To transform passive voice into active voice:  

  1. Identify the “actor” in the sentence.
  2. Place it in the subject position.
  3. Remove the “to be” verb and the past participle ending.
  4. Move the object receiving the action of the verb to the object position.
  5. Add a prepositional phrase. 


1. A treat was given to the dog by Johnny. 

2. Johnny 

3. Johnny gave 

4. Johnny gave a treat  

5. Johnny gave a treat to the dog. 

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.

Scientific writing increasingly prefers the active voice, so make sure to check with your professor! 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. 

Kayla | 2019
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