The English language is phenomenal and is an excellent tool for communicating effectively. However, it can create confusion if the writer or speaker is unable to use the right words and right grammar. Sometimes, we tend to be verbose and use long-winded sentences when there is no need to. Knowing when to use active or passive voice is a boon to your writing and your speech. This is the first of seven High English quizzes on active voice and passive voice and it concentrates on recognising their differences and using them appropriately.
Recognising the difference between active and passive voice is not so hard when you know how. Each sentence contains a subject and an object. Usually, the subject performs an action on the object. When the focus is on the subject performing the action, then we say that the sentence is in active voice. Here is an example:
‘Abishek hit the thief.’ This is a sentence in active voice as ‘Abishek’ is the subject performing the action of hitting the ‘thief’, and ‘thief’ is the object on whom the action is performed.
Now, we may encounter a situation where we have to focus on the object. This is where we should be using the passive voice. In the passive voice the above sentence would be written like this:
‘The thief was hit by Abishek.’ When the sentence is in passive voice the focus has shifted to the ‘thief.’
We notice that a sentence in active voice becomes a sentence in passive voice by modifying the original sentence. Generally, we use the preposition ‘by’ as in the above example. The reverse is also true. When we convert from passive to active, we do so by removing the preposition. Obviously, we must first identify if the sentence is in active or passive voice for us to convert it to the other. A pointer to identify passive voice is the use of ‘be’ and its various forms - 'am', 'is', 'was', 'were', 'are', or 'been' in a sentence. We note that the presence of the various forms of ‘be’ is not a necessary condition for the sentence to be a passive sentence.
To become good communicators we must become skilled at recognising and using active and passive voices and the quiz that follows helps you to do just that.