Active and Passive Voice

The Most Important Difference between Active and Passive Voice

As a prospective academic writer, you must know the difference between active and passive voice. You must know in what instances you should use active voice and in what situations passive voice is a preferred option. Your task is to learn the benefits and weaknesses of both. You can do it here.

As a student, you may have numerous occasions when choosing the most suitable voice was a problem. You could feel confused or lost, and still you could not make a decision. Such decisions become particularly difficult, when your course grade is at stake. Some professors would penalize students for a single mistake, and you would want to avoid it by all possible means. This is why it is so important to know the difference and use active and passive voice properly. If you want to avoid any such mistakes in the future, you will have to remember that active voice is different from passive voice. If you want to write about a subject that acts, use active voice. If you want to write about a subject that is influenced by an action, it is passive voice. For example:

I am writing a paper. It is active voice, because the subject (I) is doing something (writing).

This paper was written by me. It is passive voice, because the subject (paper) is the object of the action (was written).

Remember that the emphasis in these sentences will also differ. When you use active voice, you emphasize yourself. When you use passive voice, you emphasize the paper you have written. Think of it when you are choosing the most appropriate voice. Think of what you want to be emphasized in your sentence. This is how you will be able to prove your choices to your professor, if he or she has questions about your voice.

What Is Active and Passive Voice?

You can easily make a difference between active and passive voice, by how they are structured. In active voice, you always have a subject followed by predicate. The latter is a verb in the present, past, or future tense. In passive voice, the predicate always contains the verb to be in any relevant form. Still, follow our advice for using passive and active voice correctly.

Teaching active and passive voice is not that easy. However, active voice is a preferred option in most writing situations. It just reflects the basic norms of the English language. It sounds smoothly. It does not overload your brains. You simply say what the subject is doing. That is it. You will see that professors like active voice more than passive voice. Some of them would deduct some points from your grade, if you rely on passive voice too heavily. Passive voice often becomes the main reason why your sentences look and sound awkward. Besides, if you use passive voice too extensively, your readers will feel bored. Of course, passive voice is often the only way to create a solid academic paper. Still, try your best to avoid it.

When you want to emphasize the subject rather than action, passive voice will be a better option than active voice. You will tell your reader that the result of the action is more important than a person who accomplished it. Passive voice is particularly popular in detective and mystic writing, whose purpose is to keep the reader in the state of unawareness, until the puzzle is resolved. You will see plenty of passive voice used in detectives, so as to keep the reader interested until the end of the book. Also important is the use of passive voice in laboratory reports and papers that involve heavy mathematical calculations. This way, the reader will focus more on the calculations than the descriptions surrounding them. Although passive voice has numerous benefits, it is still recommended that active voice be used, whenever it is possible.