Sentences in active and passive voice play an important role in communication. In a sentence when a subject performs the action on an object, we say the sentence is in active voice. Conversely, when the focus is on the object we say that the sentence is in passive voice. This is the second of seven High English quizzes on the correct grammar to use with active voice and passive voice.
Most sentences are in active voice as the subject performing the action is more important and the speaker or writer would like to make them the focus of attention. However, in instances where we would like to be impersonal, such as in academic writing, when we want to explain a scientific concept, when we want to explain a general concept or when the subject is not important, we use sentences in the passive voice. In scientific writing passive voice helps in creating an appearance of an objective presentation that does not depend solely on individual or personal interests.
While the choice of active or passive voices rests with the speaker or writer and neither is correct or incorrect, there are instances when one or the other is more pertinent. For instance, in the sentence ‘to save time, the calculations were made on a computer’ it is not clear who was saving time – calculations? The sentence makes more sense in active voice such as ‘to save time, he/she made calculations on a computer.’ Now, let us look at another example:
‘Many diners in the restaurant found the cake too sweet, but it was still ordered briskly’.
The first part of this sentence is in active voice, while the second part is in passive voice. This is poor grammar. The same sentence reads better when we write both parts in active voice:
‘Many diners in the restaurant found the cake too sweet, but they still ordered it briskly.’
Another instance where we should avoid passive voice is in general truths. For instance, ‘He is eating food’ is a sentence that can be converted into passive voice as ‘Food is being eaten by him’, but the sentence does not seem correct. The quiz that follows helps you to learn more about the rules of grammar and etiquette in sentences in active and passive voices.