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Grammatical Voices

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English

Grammatical voice describes the relationship between a verb and the participant (the subject or object) that the verb affects.

When the subject is completing the action the sentence is in the active voice (e.g. 'Tom painted the shed'). When the subject becomes the object, i.e., is having the action done to them, the voice is passive (e.g. 'the shed was painted by Tom').

Let's delve deeper into these two grammatical voices.

What is the active voice?

The active voice is when the subject of a sentence is actively doing the verb. Sentences written in the active voice are seen as direct, clear, and have a strong tone. It is the most common grammatical voice used in the English language.

The dog ate the Christmas turkey

In this example, the subject (the dog) is doing the action (the verb 'ate') to the object (the turkey). The dog is the active participant in the sentence who is carrying out the action of the verb.

Other examples include:

  • The boy is feeding the ducks.
  • The receptionist will hand over the papers.
  • The cat chased the mouse.

In these examples, the subjects (the boy, the receptionist, and the cat) are all actively performing an action. They are active in the sentence and are carrying out the action of the verb themselves.

How do I recognise the active voice?

There is a basic structure that active voice sentences follow: subject + verb + object.

  • The boy (subject) is feeding (verb) the ducks (object).

  • The receptionist (subject) will hand (verb) over the papers (object).

  • The cat (subject) chased (verb) the mouse (object).

What is the passive voice?

The passive voice is the opposite of the active voice. A sentence is written in the passive voice when the subject is acted on by the verb/ action.

Examples include:

  • The ducks are being fed by the boy
  • The papers will be handed over by the receptionist
  • The mouse was chased by the cat

How do I recognise the passive voice?

There is a clear structure for the passive voice. It will always contain:

A conjugated form of the verb 'to be' + a verb in the past participle form.

A preposition is sometimes included in the sentence, as in the example above (by). A preposition is not essential in the passive voice.

  • The ducks (subject) are being fed (present form of to be + past participle) by (preposition) the boy (object).

  • The papers (subject) will be handed (future form of to be + past participle) over by (preposition) the receptionist (object).

  • The mouse (subject) was chased (past form of to be + past participle) by (preposition) the cat (object).

Notice how the structure has been flipped. Each of these examples also contains the preposition “by” to show that the action (verb) is being done to the subject by something else.

The importance of grammatical voice

Grammatical voice is one of the five verb properties in the English language. The five properties are the five ways that a verb may change to give further information; these consist of mood, tense, person, number, and grammatical voice.

Grammatical voice is important as it gives further information about the relationship between an action (verb) and the actor (the one performing the action). It shows whether the subject (person/thing) is doing the action themselves or whether they are having the action done to them by someone/something else.

The active voice is more common than the passive voice. It can also be used as a way of being evasive or shifting the blame.

'The man broke the vase' - active voice

'The vase was broken (by the man)' - passive voice

In this example, the active voice clearly shows that the man was active in breaking the vase and that he was responsible. In the passive voice. however, the man appears less active in breaking the vase and you can even omit adding the subject 'by the man' to avoid the blame. There is another explanation, and another reason for using the passive in this case: either we don't know who broke the vase, or it's not important.

Some passive sentences are useful to show where the focus of the sentence is. Take a look at the following sentence: "The mouse was chased by the cat." If the mouse is the focus of the story, then it is better to use the passive voice in this sentence as it shows we are meant to be focusing on the mouse rather than the cat.

The passive voice can be used in situations where a person wishes to be vague (e.g. 'the money was taken'). It can also create a sense of objectivity. This is because the passive appears less personal and takes some responsibility away from the subject.

Writers may also use the passive voice to create distance between themselves and what they are writing - this is useful if the writer wishes to focus on the action rather than the actor (subject). For example, in the sentence '20 people were given free coffee by Mary', the focus is on the people given the coffee. However, in the sentence 'Mary gave 20 people free coffee', Mary is the main focus.

Grammatical Voices - Key takeaways

  • There are two types of grammatical voice: active voice and passive voice.
  • The active voice shows that the subject is doing the action.
  • Passive voice shows that the subject is being acted on i.e. the subject is not doing the action themselves but having the action done to them by something else.
  • The active voice is more common, although the passive voice can be useful in certain instances - such as to draw focus on the object.

Grammatical Voices

When the subject is completing the action (of the verb) the sentence is in the active voice. For example, in the sentence 'Tom painted the shed', the subject (Tom) is actively doing the verb (painted) to the object (shed). The active voice often follows the structure: subject + verb+ object.

An example of the active voice is 'the dog ate the Christmas turkey'. In this example, the subject (the dog) is actively doing the verb (ate) to the object (turkey). 

When the subject becomes the object, i.e., is having the action done to them, the voice is passive. For example, in the sentence 'the shed was painted by Tom', the subject (shed) is having the action (painted) done to them by the object (Tom). The subject is not actively doing action themselves.

An example of the passive voice is 'the Christmas turkey was eaten by the dog'. In this sentence, the subject (turkey) is having the action of the verb (eaten) done to them by the object (dog). 

Grammatical voice gives information about the relationship between an action (verb) and the actor (the one performing the action). It is one of the five verb properties in the English language.

Final Grammatical Voices Quiz

Question

What is "grammatical voices" a type of?

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Answer

It is a verb property.

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Question

Which of the following is not a verb property?

  1. People

  2. Mood

  3. Tense

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Answer

People.

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Question

True or false: Passive voice is most commonly used.


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Answer

False.

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Question

 Is this sentence active or passive? “The woman milked the cow.”


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Answer

Active.

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Question

What is the structure of an active sentence?

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Answer

Subject + verb + object.

Show question

Question

What is the structure of a passive sentence?

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Answer

Object + a conjugated form of to be + the verb’s past participle + subject.

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Question

Why would a writer use the passive voice?


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Answer

To show the focus of the writing.

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Question

True or false: A preposition is often included in a passive voice sentence.


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Answer

True.

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Question

What do grammatical voices show?

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Answer

The relationship between a subject and an action.

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Question

How is the structure changed when switching from active voice to passive voice?


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Answer

It is flipped.

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Question

True or false: Active voice creates a weak tone.


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Answer

​False.

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Question

True or false: Passive voice creates a less direct tone than active voice.


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Answer

True.

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Question

Which of the following is passive voice?

  1. Peter passed around the exam papers.

  2. The mouse was held by Tommy.

  3. Jane rode her bike.

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Answer

B.

Show question

Question

Why do writers use active voice more than passive voice?


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Answer

Because it is direct and clear.

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Question

How do you know that a sentence is written in an active voice?

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Answer

The subject is the “doer” of the verb.

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Question

What is the grammatical voice?

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Answer

The grammatical voice refers to the different grammar terms used to understand the relationship between the action that the verb is describing and the subjects, or objects, that it affects.

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Question

Select the two types of grammatical voice! 

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Answer

Commanding 

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Question

What is the active voice?

Show answer

Answer

The active voice is the subject is actively doing the verb in the sentence. This means that the subject will come first in the sentence structure.

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Question

What is the passive voice?

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Answer

The passive voice is when the subject is acted on by the verb or object. This means the subject will come last in the sentence structure.

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Question

What does SVO stand for

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Answer

Systematics Voting Order

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Question

True or false - passive voice is more common than active voice

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Answer

True - the active voice is used less commonly than the passive voice 

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Question

What structure do sentences in the active voice follow?

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Answer

The active voice follows the SVO sentence structure.

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Question

Where is the subject placed in the passive voice?

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Answer

In the passive voice, the subject is placed at the end of the sentence

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Question

Is, The girl threw the rope, written in active or passive voice?


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Answer

Active

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Question

True or false - The active voice can only be found in nonfiction texts.

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Answer

True - the active voice can only be found in nonfiction texts.

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Question

In the sentence, The children watched the play, where is the subject? 


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Answer

The word, children, is the subject of the sentence.

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Question

Name one reason why the active voice is important?

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Answer

The active voice is important as it is easy to understand, makes commands clearer and can provide information efficiently.

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Question

Why is the active voice seen as more direct than the passive voice?

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Answer

 It is seen as more direct due to its use of the SVO sentence structure. This means that the information is more clearly apparent within the sentences.

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Question

True or false - the sentence, the savannah was roamed by the giraffes, is written active voice.

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Answer

True - it is written in the active voice.

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Question

Is the active voice used in literature?

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Answer

Yes, the active voice is used in literature. This is because it is more simple and direct than the passive voice.

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Question

Which voice is used to write recipes? 


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Answer

The active voice

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Question

Where is the object in the sentence, The dog slept in the kennel?


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Answer

In the sentence, the word kennel is the object.

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Question

What is one difference between the active voice and the passive voice?

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Answer

One difference between active and passive voice is that the subject in the active voice is placed at the start of the sentences, whereas in passive voice it comes at the end.

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Question

Is the sentence, The boy smashed the mirror, written in the active voice or passive voice? 


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Answer

Active voice 

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Question

Which type of voice is used in newspaper articles more often?


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Answer

Active voice 

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Question

How many kinds of grammatical voice are there?

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Answer

Two: active voice and passive voice

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Question

What does 'grammatical voice' mean?

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Answer

Grammatical voice refers to the relationship between the verb in a sentence and the subject or object of that sentence that is affected by the verb.

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Question

What is a verb?

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Answer

a word or phrase that is the action in a sentence.

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Question

What is the most important characteristic of the passive voice?

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Answer

That the verb is acting upon the subject or object, rather than the subject carrying out the verb.

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Question

List three other things the passive voice should include.

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Answer

  • the verb -to be
  • a past participle of a verb
  • a direct or implied -by

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Question

What is meant by "implied -by"?

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Answer

An implied -by is when there is no reference to who or what has carried out the action but it is implied. 

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Question

What is a direct -by?

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Answer

A direct -by is when the person or thing that carries out the action is mentioned in the sentence. 

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Question

Define 'agent' in English Language.

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Answer

An agent is the person or thing that carries out the action in a sentence. 

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Question

What is another term for the short passive voice?

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Answer

The agentless voice.

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Question

Which kind of passive voice has no agent?

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Answer

The short passive voice.

Show question

Question

What sets the long passive voice apart from the active voice?

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Answer

The subject and the object switch places within the sentence. 

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Question

Which of these options is a good reason to use the passive voice?

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Answer

When the agent is unknown

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Question

What can happen if you use multiple passive structures in one sentence?

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Answer

The sentence can be become too wordy and confusing. 

Show question

Question

What grammatical voice do teachers often favour and encourage students to use?

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Answer

The active voice. 

Show question

Question

What grammatical voice would you use when you want to place the emphasis on the topic you're discussing rather than who it involves?

Show answer

Answer

The passive voice.

Show question

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