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Knowledge of Language: Grammar - Active and Passive Voice
For little hands, large crayons work best!

Knowledge of Language: Grammar - Active and Passive Voice

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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.

1.
Which sentence below is a passive voice sentence?
Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind is a book.
Margaret Mitchell’s book is Gone with the Wind.
Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.
The book Gone with the Wind is by Margaret Mitchell.
The subject is “Margaret Mitchell” while the object is the “book Gone with the Wind”. When the object of the sentence comes after a verb it tells us that the sentence is an active voice sentence. In Answer (a) the object comes after the verb so it is not a passive voice sentence. In Answer (b), both the subject and the object come before the verb so this too is not an example of a passive voice sentence. Answer (c) is missing a verb altogether so it, too, is not the answer we are looking for. Answer (d) shows the object coming before the subject and is an example of a good passive voice sentence. Answer (d) is correct
2.
Which sentence below is an active voice sentence?
A more fuel efficient family SUV Mazda promised has been made.
Mazda’s more fuel efficient family SUV has been promised.
A more fuel efficient family SUV made by Mazda has been promised.
Mazda has promised to make a more fuel efficient family SUV.
The subject is “Mazda” and the object is “more fuel efficient family SUV.” When the object comes at the beginning of the sentence and the subject comes after the verb it is a passive voice sentence. Answer (c) is a passive voice sentence and not what we are looking for. Answers (a) and (b) show no verb separating the subject and the object so they do not follow the rules of active/passive sentences and are, therefore, not the answers we are looking for. Answer (d) shows the subject first and the object coming after the verb making it a perfect example of an active voice sentence. Answer (d) is correct
3.
Which sentence below is a passive voice sentence?
My family went camping at Yellowstone Park.
Yellowstone Park is where my family went camping.
My family went camping at the north end of Yellowstone Park.
Yellowstone Park is located in the United States.
The subject is “my family” which can be found in Answers (1), (2) and (3). It is not found in Answer (d). In fact, in Answer (d), Yellowstone Park is the subject. This then tells us that Answer (d) is not a passive voice and not the answer we need. In both Answers (a) and (c) the subject (my family) appears at the beginning of the sentence so this tells us that these two sentences are active voice sentences. Answer (b), however, places the subject after the verb and the object (Yellowstone Park) at the beginning. This makes this a passive voice sentence. Answer (b) is correct
4.
Which sentence below is an active voice sentence?
The Beatles’ lead singer was Paul McCartney.
The Beatles’ Paul McCartney was lead singer.
Paul McCartney was the lead singer of the Beatles.
The lead singer, Paul McCartney, was one of the Beatles.
The subject is “Paul McCartney” while the object is “lead singer of the Beatles.” Answer (a) shows the object first and the subject after a verb making it a passive voice sentence and not what we are looking for. Answers (b) and (d) have placed part of the object with the subject and do not now follow the active/passive voice rules so neither sentence is what we are looking for. Answers (c) shows the subject first and the object coming after a verb and is an active voice sentence. Answer (c) is correct
5.
Which sentence below is an active voice sentence?
Large crayons work best for little hands.
Little hands work best with large crayons.
Little hands with large crayons work best.
For little hands, large crayons work best.
The subject is “large crayons” and the object is “little hands.” When the object appears at the beginning of a sentence it is a passive voice sentence. Answers (b), (c) and (d) each show the object at the beginning of the sentence so they are not what we are looking for. Answer (a) shows the subject (large crayons) at the beginning and has the object coming after the verb so it is the active voice sentence we are looking for. Answer (a) is correct
6.
Which sentence below is an active voice sentence?
Our school had the circus on Friday!
Our school, on Friday, had the circus!
The circus came.
The circus came to our school on Friday!
The subject is the “circus” while the object is “our school.” Answer (c) does not include the object so we can quickly dismiss this answer as it does not follow the rules of having the subject or object come after the verb. Answers (a) and (b) show the object coming at the beginning of the sentence making both of these sentences passive voice sentences. Answer (d), however, shows the object after the verb and is an example of an active voice sentence. Answer (d) is correct
7.
Which sentence below is an active voice sentence?
Penny and Grace won the lottery!
The lottery was won by Penny and Grace!
The lottery Penny and Grace won!
The lottery was won!
The subjects are “Penny and Grace” while the object is the “lottery.” Answer (d) does not include the subjects “Penny and Grace” so we can quickly dismiss this answer. Answers (b) and (c) show the object coming at the beginning of the sentence making both of these sentences passive voice sentences. Answer (a) on the other hand shows the object after the verb and is an example of an active voice sentence. Answer (a) is correct
8.
Which sentence below is a passive voice sentence?
Jimmy collects frogs.
Frogs are collected by Jimmy.
Jimmy’s frogs collection.
Jimmy’s frogs are collected.
The subject here is “Jimmy” and the object is “frogs.” In order for a sentence to be a passive voice sentence, the object must come first and the subject must come after a verb. Looking at each of the four sentences, only Answer (b) shows the object coming first and the subject after a verb. Therefore, Answer (b) is the correct answer
9.
Which sentence below is a passive voice sentence?
My home state is Massachusetts.
Massachusetts is my home state.
My home is Massachusetts state.
My state home is Massachusetts.
The subject is “my home” while the object is “Massachusetts”. When the object of the sentence comes after a verb it tells us that the sentence is an active voice sentence. In Answers (a), (c) and (d), “Massachusetts” comes after the verb so each of these sentences are active voice sentences. We are looking for the passive voice. Answer (b) shows “Massachusetts” at the beginning of the sentence making it a passive voice sentence. Therefore, Answer (b) is correct
10.
Which sentence below is a passive voice sentence?
The new umbrella was ruined by the strong wind.
The umbrella was ruined by the new, strong wind.
The strong wind ruined the new umbrella.
The new, expensive umbrella was ruined by the strong wind.
The subject is the “new umbrella” and the object is the “strong wind”. When the object of the sentence comes after a verb it tells us that the sentence is an active voice sentence. In Answers (a), (b) and (d), the “strong wind” comes after the verb so each of these sentences are active voice. We are looking for the passive voice. Answer (c) shows the “strong wind” at the beginning of the sentence making it a passive voice sentence. Therefore, Answer (c) is correct
Author:  Christine G. Broome

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