Active Voice vs. Passive Voice
The voice of verbs
What are the differences between passive and active voice? When do you use them? Is there an advantage in using one over the other?
Choosing the "voice" of verb for a research paper – or for any form of writing – can be a tricky task. Voice in grammar, after all, can affect the way the verbs inflect, as well as where points of emphasis, intonations, and stress points may occur. In particular, voice affects the relationship between the action or the state that the verb expresses and the subjects or objects of that verb.
Differentiating between active voice and passive voice
If the subject of the sentence is the doer of the action, the verb is said to be in the active voice. Meanwhile, if the subject is the target – or the undergoes – of the action, the verb is said to be in the passive voice.
More active voice examples
More passive voice examples
When to use the active voice or the passive voice
Of the two, the active voice is the more commonly used in most forms of writing. (It might also be said that it's the normal voice when speaking in English.) It leaves no ambiguity as to who the subject of the sentence is, and what that subject is doing. However, while the use of the active voice – against the use of the passive voice – is typically counseled in high school as a rule, there will be times that the passive voice is needed.
The passive voice is often used in cases wherein the author wishes to place emphasis on, or treat as the subject, the target or undergoes – instead of the doer – of the action. While it is not commonly used in research paper writing, the passive voice does figure itself more prominently in mystery and crime writing and reportage – especially if the doer of the action is not or cannot be known. ("The bank was robbed," "Hundreds were injured last Friday in a riot at the square.") It is also suitable for laboratory reports and mathematical expressions, helping sharpen focus on the content of the reports or expressions instead of on the researchers. ("Five of these plant species were taken indoors, away from the sunlight", "Two-hundred five was multiplied by two to arrive at four-hundred ten.")
Additional Writing Resources
- What's a Good Essay?
- Academic Essays
- Admission Essays
- Scholarship Essays
- Essay Writing: First-Person and Third-Person Points of View
- Elements of a Successful Research Paper
- Removing Redundancy: Writing Clearly and Concisely
- Avoiding Commonly Misused Words
- Choosing an Effective Essay Topic
- An Overview of Literary Genres
- What Makes Classic Literature Classic?
- Determining Your Writing Style
- APA vs. MLA: What Style Guide Do I Use?