Active Voice – Examples & Rules

In English grammar, there are different parts of speech. One of the common ones is verbs. Verbs further have five main properties that help convey complete and meaningful sentences. Today, we will talk about voices. Voices belong to one of the properties of verbs that affects a major part of sentence forming in grammar.

Voice is generally a term that indicates or describes the quality of a verb. It tells us whether the verb’s subject acts or is being acted upon. This gives the two classifications of voice, the active and the passive. Today our main concern is the former type, Active Voice.

In simple words, active voice means that the subject does the action. It is a direct way of conveying something. It is different from passive voice and has certain rules that we need to learn thoroughly. So, let us have a detailed discussion below.

What is Active Voice?

Active voice is one of the two classifications of voice. And as we have already learned, voice is one of the five properties of a verb. In a general sense, active voice can be defined as the type of voice or quality of a verb that shows that the subject of a clause or a sentence performs or acts a verb’s action.

In short, we can say that in active voice, the subject directly enacts the verb’s task. The message is conveyed in a very clear, strong, and direct manner. That means the main focus is the subject of the sentence doing the action or performing the verb action.

Let us look at some straightforward examples for easy understanding.

  • Monkeys eat a lot of bananas.
  • The girl collected her notes from the classroom.
  • The cat chased the rat.
  • The dog bit my neighbour.

As we can see, the subjects are directly performing their respective tasks. So, they are all said to be in an active voice.

It is to notice that all the sentences have a similar voice structure or construction. It begins with a subject, followed by a verb, and then the object. For instance, in the last example, the dog is the subject. The dog bit someone indicates the verb, and the neighbour is the object. So, the main point is that the dog, which is the subject, is performing the verb’s action.

Difference between active voice and passive voice

Now that we know the meaning of active voice and what it conveys, it is important to learn the second type, passive voice. Only by understanding the difference between the two, we can clearly figure out the significance of active voice.

Active voice is the verb quality where the subject is acting the verb’s action. But on the other hand, passive voice is the type of voice where the subject of the sentence is being acted upon by the verb. The difference is very clear that in active voice, the subject is doing something, and in passive voice, the subject is being performed on.

The difference is not mainly reliant or dependent on the tense of the verb. The main point lies in the structure of the sentence. In simple words, in an active voice, we use the structure that follows like subject+verb+object. But in a passive voice, we follow the structure of a sentence: Object+verb+subject.

So basically, we use a passive voice when the emphasis is more on the job or the action than the subject. But in an active voice, we always focus on the subject that is doing or acting something.

Let us look at some basic examples.

Active voice:

Dogs eat bones.

Passive voice:

Bones are eaten by dogs.

Active voice:

The teacher corrected the answer sheets.

Passive voice:

The answer sheets were corrected by the teacher.

As we can clearly notice, the structure of the sentence clearly changes when we change from one voice to another.

When to use active voice?

It is always important in grammar to use an active voice whenever there is a possibility.

It is mainly because active voices make the sentence strong, to the point, and clear. The reader can easily understand who is acting what, and there remains no room for confusion. So, it is a good habit to always put the majority of the clauses in active voice. In case it is a necessity to keep the sentence voice passive, the choice can be otherwise.

There are several other reasons as to why you should use active voice. They are;

  • It makes use of fewer words, which makes the writing more precise and efficient.
  • Active voices allow clear narration and faster reading time.
  • One major benefit of using an active voice in a sentence is that it prevents silly grammatical mistakes. When we use passive voice, we use past participle form plus other auxiliary verbs to complete sentences. That can cause many errors if one is not careful.

Converting a passive voice sentence into an active voice

Now that we know it is important to use active voice as much as possible, we need to know how to convert passive voice sentences into active ones.

The basic rule is to follow the structure: subject + verb + object.

So, when there is a prepositional or “by” phrase in a sentence such as by the cat, by the teacher, etc. That sentence is in passive voice. Remove the by phrase and bring the subject closer to the beginning.

Simply put, always discover the subject in a passive sentence to easily change it into an active one.

For example;

  • My cat was bitten by my neighbour’s dog.
  • My neighbour’s dog bit my cat.

In the second sentence, the active voice, there is a change of the verb’s tense and removal of the by phrase. The main point is that the main subject is brought in the beginning, followed by the verb, and then the object.

So, this is the point that one needs to keep in mind while using active voice. And as mentioned earlier, it is better to keep maximum clauses in an active voice while writing. Do this to make your sentences strong and clear.

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