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Verbs (Active and Passive Voice) 01
"Temperatures are measured in degrees" is an example of a sentence written in the passive voice.

Verbs (Active and Passive Voice) 01

In English, when the subject of the verb is performing the action, then the sentence is written in the active voice as in "The dog bit the cat". The sentence "The cat was bitten by the dog" uses the passive voice. Can you see the difference? In the first example, the dog is active. It is the one who bites. In the second sentence the dog is still active - it is still the one who bites. The subject of the second sentence, however, is the cat. The cat is passive because it is a recipient of the action.

We could change this, of course. If we wanted the cat to have a more active role in the sentence, we could write, "The cat hissed viciously when the dog bit it." Becoming a good writer involves thinking carefully about such details when you construct your sentence. If you want the audience to picture the scene focussing on the dog, then an active construction where the dog is the subject is best. Writing "the cat was bitten by the dog" takes the emphasis off the dog (which now comes at the end of the sentence), but also leaves the cat in a passive role.

One common problem with passive sentences is that they do not always make it clear WHO is acting. This can be useful for formal, impersonal instructions, however, as you will see in this quiz.

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1.
Which sentence uses the passive voice?
Cakes are made with flour and eggs
Flour and eggs make cakes
Gran uses flour and eggs to make cakes
You use flour and eggs to make cakes
"You use", "Gran uses" and "flour and eggs make" all use the active voice - we therefore call them active sentences
2.
Which sentence uses the passive voice?
Degrees measure temperature levels
One type of temperature measurement is degrees C.
Temperatures are measured in degrees
Weather forecasters measure temperatures in degrees
Who is using degrees to measure the temperatures? Some passive constructions are ambivalent about who is carrying out the action
3.
Which sentence uses the passive voice?
A form for the trip can be collected from the office
The forms for the trip are in the office
The office has the forms for the trip
You can collect a form for the trip from the office
Using the passive voice is an impersonal, more formal way of writing
4.
Which sentence uses the passive voice?
A letter of permission is needed for the trip
You can collect a letter of permission from me
You need a letter of permission to take part in the trip
Your parents must sign a letter of permission for the trip
Here the passive voice makes this informative sentence more formal in tone
5.
Which sentence uses the passive voice?
Bananas are eaten by the monkeys
Monkeys eat bananas
The monkeys eat what the zookeeper provides
The zookeeper gives the monkeys bananas to eat
Use passive voice carefully. Why would it be important to focus on the bananas rather than the monkeys? This construction might be well-chosen for a piece of non-fiction writing concerning bananas
6.
Which sentence uses the active voice?
Spring months are followed by summer months
Summer months are followed by autumn months
Summer months follow spring months
Winter months are followed by spring months
If the sentence contains "is" or "are" and a past participle ("followed"), then it is probably written in the passive voice
7.
Which sentence uses the active voice?
The gymnast vaults over the high box
The high box is used for vaults by the gymnasts
The high box is vaulted over by the gymnast
The high boxes are vaulted over by the gymnasts
Focus on what "the gymnast" does and you will see that this is active voice
8.
Which sentence uses the active voice?
Dad carefully puts the icing on the cake
The cake is carefully iced by dad
The carefully iced cake is eaten at the party
The icing is carefully put on the cake by dad
It is "Dad" who does the verb and this again is active voice
9.
Which sentence uses the active voice?
Mum takes the children to tennis
The children are taken to tennis at midday
The children are taken to tennis by car
The children are taken to tennis by mum
The construction "are taken" is passive
10.
Which sentence uses the active voice?
The teacher tunes the violins
The violins are already tuned
The violins are tuned by the teacher
The violins were tuned by the teacher
If you have found this quiz difficult then don't worry. The great majority of adults have no idea whether a sentence is written in the active or passive voice!

 

Author:  Sue Daish

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