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When thinking about the word “voice” you first tend to think about speech or the sound one makes when they speak. However, in language arts when you use the word “voice” it refers to sentence structure. In essence, there are two forms of voice, the active voice and the passive voice.
The active voice sentence is where the subject that is performing an action comes at the beginning of the sentence and the object that is being acted upon comes after the verb in the sentence. An example of an active voice sentence would be as follows:
Maria baked a cake.
Maria is the subject and the object (cake) comes after the verb “baked” making this sentence an active voice sentence.
The passive voice sentence reverses the order of the active voice in that the object comes at the beginning of the sentence and the subject is placed after the verb. An example of a passive voice sentence would be as follows:
A cake baked by Maria.
The object (cake) is at the beginning of the sentence and the subject, i.e., Maria, comes after the verb “baked.”
In general, the active voice sentence is the more preferred style of sentence as the reader tends to find it easier to understand. So if it is the preferred style then why even use the passive voice? When writing, when you want the object to have more importance than the subject, the object should appear first. For example, let’s look at a sentence written in the active voice and in the passive voice.
Active Voice: The nursery grew the biggest royal, blue rose.
Passive Voice: The biggest royal, blue rose grew in the nursery.
The nursery is the subject and the biggest, royal, blue rose is the object. When the writer wants the emphasis placed on the object it will or should appear first in the sentence. The writer is directing the reader’s attention to the rose and not to the nursery.
As you begin to write your stories, book reports or what have you, you will need to decide where you want your reader’s attention to focus on. Do you want them to focus on the subject or the object? Tweaking your sentences just a little will get the sentence in the proper voice that you are seeking.
That is really all there is to know about the active voice and the passive voice sentences so let’s see now if you can quickly pick out each type of sentence. Look at the sentences below and see if you can find the correct answer for each one.