Mastering English

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 passive'):
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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Mastering English