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Writers Workshop: Writer Resources

Grammar Handbook: Active and Passive Voice

The voice of a verb tells whether the subject of the sentence performs or receives the action. In English there are two voices: active and passive.

Active Voice

In active voice, the subject performs the action expressed by the verb:

Passive Voice

In passive voice, the subject receives the action expressed by the verb:

Forming Tenses of Passive Verbs

The passive voice always consists of two parts: a form of the verb "to be" + past participle:

Tense Passive voice form
Present it is cleaned
Past it was cleaned
Future it will be cleaned
Present perfect it has been cleaned
Past perfect it had been cleaned
Future perfect it will have been cleaned

Uses of Passive Voice

Use the passive voice to:

Active and Passive Voice in Writing

The choice between using the active or passive voice in writing is a matter of style, not correctness. However, most handbooks recommend using active voice, which they describe as more natural, direct, lively, and succinct. The passive voice is considered wordy and weak (except when used in cases above). Examine the following examples.

Hints for Identifying the Passive Voice