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Active Voice vs. Passive Voice: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Published on January 22, 2024
In active voice, the subject performs the action expressed by the verb; in passive voice, the subject is acted upon by the verb.
Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

Key Differences

In active voice, the subject of the sentence is doing the action, making the sentence direct and clear. For example, "The cat chased the mouse." In contrast, passive voice focuses on the action's recipient, often making the subject less prominent, as in "The mouse was chased by the cat."
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024
Active voice typically creates more concise and engaging sentences, often used for clarity and dynamic writing. It is straightforward: "She wrote the novel." Passive voice, however, can be useful for emphasizing the action's recipient or when the doer is unknown or irrelevant: "The novel was written by her."
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024
In scientific or formal writing, passive voice is frequently used to create an objective tone by removing the subject from the action: "The experiment was conducted." Conversely, active voice is preferred in most other forms of writing for its directness and energy: "We conducted the experiment."
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024
Passive voice can sometimes lead to vague or wordy sentences, as the doer of the action is often omitted: "Mistakes were made." Active voice avoids this ambiguity by clearly stating the doer: "The team made mistakes."
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024
Active voice sentences are generally easier to understand and are often more assertive: "The manager approved the project." Passive voice can soften the statement or shift focus, useful in diplomatic contexts: "The project was approved by the manager."
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024
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Comparison Chart

Subject's Role

Performs the action
Receives the action
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Sentence Clarity

Generally clearer and more direct
Can be less direct and sometimes vague
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Conciseness

More concise
Often more wordy
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Preferred Use

Engaging, dynamic writing; clarity
Formal, scientific writing; emphasis
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Example

"The dog caught the ball."
"The ball was caught by the dog."
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024
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Active Voice and Passive Voice Definitions

Active Voice

Subject performs the action.
She sings a song.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Passive Voice

Often used for formal or impersonal tone.
The treaty was signed by the leaders.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Active Voice

Direct expression of action by the subject.
The chef cooked the meal.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Passive Voice

Action emphasized over the subject.
The meal was cooked by the chef.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Active Voice

Action-oriented and lively sentence structure.
The birds chirp melodiously.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 09, 2024
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Passive Voice

Subject is acted upon by the verb.
The house is being painted by them.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Active Voice

Subject leads the verb in action.
They are painting the house.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Passive Voice

Subject receives the action of the verb.
A song is sung by her.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Active Voice

Emphasizes the doer of the action.
John solved the problem.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Passive Voice

Doer of the action is less prominent.
The problem was solved by John.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 09, 2024

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is active voice good for scientific writing?

It's less common but can be used for clarity.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Does active voice help in concise writing?

Yes, it usually makes sentences more concise.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

When should active voice be used?

For clarity, directness, and engaging writing.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Why use passive voice?

To emphasize the action or when the doer is unknown/irrelevant.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Can passive voice be effective?

Yes, in formal, diplomatic, or scientific contexts.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

What is passive voice?

A structure where the subject is acted upon by the verb.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

What is active voice?

A sentence structure where the subject performs the action.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Can active voice make writing more dynamic?

Yes, it often makes sentences more lively.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Are passive sentences always weaker?

Not always, but they can lack directness.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Do journalists prefer active voice?

Generally, yes, for its direct and engaging nature.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Is passive voice more wordy?

Often, it involves more words than active voice.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Is passive voice common in business writing?

Yes, particularly in formal communications.
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Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Is passive voice less clear?

It can be, especially if overused or poorly constructed.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Can active voice be informal?

It can be, depending on the context and wording.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Is active voice more assertive?

Yes, it typically comes across as more confident.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Should legal documents use passive voice?

They often do, for formality and objectivity.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Can active voice be used in academic writing?

Yes, particularly to make points clear and concise.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Does passive voice obscure responsibility?

It can, especially if the doer is not mentioned.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Can switching voices change sentence impact?

Absolutely, it can alter focus and clarity.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

Are there times to avoid passive voice?

Yes, when clarity and directness are essential.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Jan 22, 2024

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About Author
Shumaila Saeed
Written by
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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