The Uses of Active and Passive Voice
Use the passive voice to:
Call attention to receiver of the action rather than the performer:
The professor was hit by three snowballs.
Point out the receiver of the action when performer is unknown or unimportant:
A love letter was slipped under the door.
The signs will be posted.
Avoid calling attention to the performer of the action (known as the 'institutional
The fines will be collected on Monday.
In active voice, on the other hand, the subject performs the action of the verb:
The cats climbed the curtains.
Grandma and Grandpa raced grocery carts across the parking lot.
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.
A more detailed breakdown is termed SVO, or Subject, Object, Verb.
Here are three examples, where the Subject, Verb, or Object is the focus of attention:
S focus: John rides horses.
V focus: Riding horses is John's hobby.
O focus: Horses are what John rides.
Purdue University has an excellent and detailed presentation on this topic (plus many others):
Online Writing Lab
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