Do you know the differences between active and passive voice?  If you're confused, don't be alarmed.  Many authors and writers don't understand the difference.  All they've ever been told is - Always write in active voice.  The truth is that you need a mix of active and passive voice, but let's take a look at the differences between the two.


The Difference Between Passive and Active Voice

If you are a writer or do anything that involves English or literature, you may often find yourself writing something or being asked to write something that may involve the words active and passive voice. In fact, those two things are something that everyone in the writing or English/literature industry have probably at least heard of, and they are also some of the most confusing and hard terms for people out there. So, what is the difference between passive and active voice?

Passive Voice

Sometimes people or students of English might be told to avoid usage of the passive voice because it is seen as "weak". Really though, there are plenty of situations out there where the passive voice is acceptable and even better to use than the active voice.

The simplest definition of passive voice is that usage of the passive voice emphasizes the recipient of the action being done or sometimes that action itself.

An easy example of this would be, the ball of yarn was chased by the cat.

In this example one can see that the recipient of the action is the first part of the sentence, that being "the ball of yarn", as that is what is being chased, which is the action. So, in this case, passive voice might be seen to be slightly weaker and wordier than what some writers might like. So, how does this compare to active voice?

Active Voice

Active Voice is seen as the stronger option between the two, and often referred to as the better option as well. An easy definition of active voice is that this time the voice puts emphasis on the person or object doing the acting, otherwise known as the actor of the sentence.

Using the same type of example as before, the sentence would be changed into active voice by changing it to, the cat chased the ball of yarn. This time, the sentence begins with what is doing the action in the sentence, that being the cat, and the recipient of the action comes second. While it may be still around the same amount of words and still say basically the same thing, the sentence is now easier to say to a degree and at least seems less wordy than it was in passive voice. Altogether, it is now a stronger sentence.


What is better?

So, yes, while a lot of people would say that active voice is better to use because it makes the sentence shorter and more concise, there are some sentences and circumstances that one could argue that passive voice would be a better choice, especially in some situations where not all the information is known. Another option would be when the action being done is more important than the actor.

So, for example, in a sentence saying, The research was approved by the committee of genetics, the fact that the research was approved is more important than what the committee that approved it is, making this usage of passive voice a better choice than active voice.

In the end, you can probably tell why there is such confusion between the two terms, active and passive voice. In reality, you will most likely hear that active voice is best to use in most circumstances, which is true, but do not cut out your usage of passive voice completely. Both voices have their own purpose in writing, you just have to make sure you know and can find that purpose at the proper time.


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