Dearest Friends,

For the English language learner, It is very important to know:

  • What is voice?
  • What is active voice and what is passive voice?
  • When do we use passives?
  • How to change active to passive or vice versa?

Let us discuss them one by one:

What is voice?

There are two types of sentences. One type of sentences contain active verbs and the other type of sentences contain stative verbs. Let’s first what they mean.

Active verbs contain actions. Action means happening something or doing something.

Stative verbs express states. State means staying the same. They express the state of being‘. For example,

Ali seems happy.

Ali is a smart boy.

Both of these sentences contain state verbs. The verbs ‘seems‘ and ‘is‘ do not express any actions. They indeed express ‘state of being’.

Note: The sentences which contain stative verbs do not have an active voice or passive voice because they don’t have actions verbs in them.

The sentences can be active or passive only when they contains active and transitive verbs.

Now let’s talk about the sentences which contain active and transitive verbs.

These sentences have two voices. These two voices are:

active voice and

passive voice.

Now, let us see what they mean.

For the purpose of illustration, let us write two sentences. Here are the two sentences.

1. Asif waters the garden.
2. The garden is watered by Asif.

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In one sentence the subject is the doer of action and in another sentence, the subject is affected or targeted by the action.

1. Asif waters the garden.

This sentence is about ‘Asif’. Therefore, Asif is the subject and he is a doer of the action denoted by the verb ‘waters’.

2. The garden is watered by Asif.

In this sentence we talk about ‘the garden, and, therefore, the garden is subject and it is acted upon by the action denoted by verb phrase ‘ is watered’ performed by ‘Asif’.

Thus, we conclude voice is that form of the verb which shows whether the subject acts or is affected by the action denoted by the verb.

Voice defines the relationship between the action and the actor. In English, the same set of facts, therefore, can be reported in two ways.

  • In the active voice
  • In the passive voice

Active Voice and Passive Voice

Sentence 1 is active because, in this sentence, the subject is the doer of the action. It is Asif who waters the garden. When a person performs some actions he is said to be active. The doer of the action is also called agent. Hence, we can say when the subject of a sentence is an agent( doer of the action), the sentence is active. Here are some more examples of active sentences:

  • Saika plays the piano. ( Saika is subject and agent).
  • Tasleem wrote a wonderful essay. ( Tasleem is subject and agent).
  • She will sing a beautiful song. ( She is a subject and possible agent)

Active voice

The verb is said to be an active voice when the subject acts or in other words, the active form of the verb is used when the agent or actor is to be made prominent.

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Sentence 2 is passive because in this sentence, the subject ‘the garden’ is affected by the action of the verb performed by Asif. In this the subject is not doing the action, therefore it is a passive sentence. The subject which is affected it acted upon is called the patient. In other words, the sentence is passive when its subject is patient. Here are some more examples of passive sentences:

  • The piano is played by Saika. ( The piano is subject and patient)
  • An essay was written by Tasleem. ( An essay is subject and patient)
  • A song will be sung by her. ( A song is subject and patient)

Passive Voice

The verb is said to be in the passive voice when the subject is affected by the action of the verb. In other terms, passive refers to the way a sentence is structured so that there is a shift in focus from the subject of the action ( agent) to the receiver of the action.

In all sentences, the subject is the point of focus. Subject means the topic of the sentence. It is the prominent entity about which the sentence is. Therefore, if the subject is an agent ( doer of the action) the sentence contains an active verb. Whereas if the subject is patient ( receiver or bearer of action) the sentence contains a passive verb.

Important points:

➡ The doer of action stated by the verb is called agent.
➡ The sentence is active when its subject is an agent.
➡ The receiver or the bearer of action stated by the verb is called the patient.
➡ The sentence is passive when its subject is patient.

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Now you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What is an active voice in a sentence?
  • What does Passive Voice mean in grammar?
  • What is the difference between an active and passive voice?

Can you identify whether the following sentences contain active verbs or passive verbs:

  1. The boy answered the question.
  2. The people crowded in the park.
  3. The man was killed by someone.
  4. Quinine is bitter when tasted.
  5. The flowers have been plucked today.
  6. The building will be decorated tomorrow.
  7. She gave a nice lecture.
  8. I am studying your posts.
  9. This post helped me a lot.
  10. You were kicked badly.
  11. Those who help themselves are helped by God.

In the next lesson, we are discussing the structure of actives and passives and the rule of changing actives to passives and vice-versa.

Read Also:How to Form Passives

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