Active Voice vs. Passive Voice (#25. Grammar Girl here. Today's topic is active voice versus passive voice. Here's Brian from Iowa:

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1 Active Voice vs. Passive Voice (#25 Grammar Girl here. Today's topic is active voice versus passive voice. Here's Brian from Iowa: "It drives me crazy when people write in passive voice. How can I teach people how to tell the difference between passive and active voice and stay away from passive voice? Thanks." A lot of you have asked me to explain passive voice and how to avoid it. I'll start with active voice because it's simpler. In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action. A very straightforward example is the sentence "Steve loves Amy." Steve is the subject, and he is doing the action: he loves Amy, the object. Another example is the title of the Marvin Gaye song I Heard It through the Grapevine. I is the subject, the one who is doing the action. I is hearing it, the object of the sentence. In passive voice the target of the action gets promoted to the subject position. Instead of saying, "Steve loves Amy," I would say, "Amy is loved by Steve." The subject of the sentence becomes Amy, but she isn't doing anything. Rather, she is just the recipient of Steve's love. The focus of the sentence has changed from Steve to Amy. If you wanted to make the title of the Marvin Gaye song passive, you would say It Was Heard by Me through the Grapevine, not such a catchy title anymore. A lot of people think that all sentences that contain a form of the verb to be are in passive voice, but that isn't true. For example, the sentence "I am holding a pen" is in active voice, but it uses the verb am, which is a form of to be. The passive form of that sentence is "The pen is being held by me." Another important point is that passive sentences aren't incorrect; it's just that they often aren't the best way to phrase your thoughts. Sometimes passive voice is awkward and other times it's vague. When you put sentences in passive voice, it's easy to leave out the agent doing the action. For example, "Amy is loved" is passive. The problem with that sentence is that you don't know who loves Amy. In fact, politicians often use passive voice to intentionally obscure the idea of who is taking the action. Ronald Reagan famously said, "Mistakes were made" when referring to the Iran-Contra scandal. Other examples of passive voice for political reasons could include "Bombs were dropped" and "Shots were fired." Since I started writing this episode, I've become more aware of passive voice, and it seems as if I hear politicians use it every day. So, these are some of the reasons to avoid passive voice: the form can lead to awkward sentences and obscured meaning. Also, passive voice is wordy. You can tighten up your writing a lot if you use active voice more often than passive.

2 EXERCISE 1 From: Active-Passive Voice - Directions: Change each passive voice sentence into the active voice. Type your new sentences into the boxes below each item. When you are finished, hit the "Check My Work" button at the bottom of the page to check your answers. 1. A piece of plastic had been swallowed by the child. 2. Two separate people were given rides in the new models by the designer. 3. Our dog is frightened by loud thunderstorms. 4.The store was kept open until 11:00 p.m. by the overtired workers. 5. The ball is hit straight into the bleachers by the batter. 6. New insecticides are produced each year by chemical companies. 7.The old shed was painted bright blue by the man's son. 8. Resources for the project were not included in the budget by the legislature. 9. The vibrant colors in the painting are immediately noticed by museum goers. lo.the story is presented in a dispassionate way by the author.

3 Exercise #2 - Passive Sentences Explanation: Passive voice Rewrite the sentences using Passive voice. Example: Peter writes a letter. Answer: A letter is written. Or A letter is written by Peter. 1) Julia rescued three cats. 2) The students handed in the reports. 3) Maria crashed into the blue car. 4) Alex learned the poem. 5) Steven has forgotten the book. 6) The mechanic has not repaired the DVD recorder. 7) They play handball. 8) Sue puts the rucksack on the floor. 9) The girls had lost the match. 10) The teacher is not going to open the window.

4 Exercise #3: Passive sentences in the Simple Past Explanation: Passive Rewrite the given sentences in Passive voice. Example: Frank built a house. Answer: A house was built, or A house was built by Frank. 1) She bought four apples. 2) We won the match. 3) The man stole the blue car. 4) The police arrested the thieves. 5) Jack swam the 200 metres. 6) The dog bit the old lady. 7) Tom and Max ate five hamburgers. 8) Oliver taught the children. 9) Victoria rode the brown horse. 10) Grandmother told good stories.

5 Exercise #4 - Rewrite the given sentences in Passive voice. Example: Frank builds a house. Answer: A house is built, or A house is built by Frank. 1) Mr. Jones watches the film. 2) The people speak English. 3) He reads comics. 4) We play volleyball. 5) They sing the song. 6) I take photos. 7) She does the housework. 8) The policemen help the children. 9) He writes text messages. 10) Mother waters the flowers.

6 Exercise #5 Rewrite the given sentences in Passive voice. Sometimes there are two possible answers (two objects in the active sentence). Do not use contracted/short forms. Example: Tim gave Lisa some flowers. Answer: Some flowers were given to Lisa by Tim. or Lisa was given some flowers by Tim. 1) They don't speak English in this shop. 2) Kevin asked Dennis a question. 3) Somebody built the house last year. 4) She gives him a box. 5) Max will look after him. 6) The waiter brought Fred a big steak. 7) Somebody broke into our bungalow last Friday. 8) The teacher told us a joke. 9) They will meet Doris at the station. 10) Michael has not sent me a text message.

7 Exercise #6 Decide whether the sentences are written in Active or Passive, and write "Active" or "Passive" beside each one, accordingly. 1. They listen to music. 2. She is reading an These cars are produced in Japan. 4. Alan teaches Geography. 5. German is spoken in Austria. 6. Lots of houses were destroyed by the earthquake. 7. Henry Ford invented the assembly line. 8. The bus driver was hurt. 9. You should open your workbooks. 10. Houses have been built. Exercise #7 Decide whether the sentences are written in Active or Passive, and write "Active" or "Passive" beside each one, accordingly. 1. Boys like to play soccer. 2. This room has been painted blue. 3. Cricket is played in Australia. 4. I am given a book. 5. We have lost our keys. 6. You might see dolphins here. 7. The report must be completed by next Friday. 8. They were singing a song. 9. A letter was written to her. 10. The bike is being repaired.

8 ANSWERS EXERCISE #1 1. The child had swallowed a piece of plastic. 2. The designer gave two separate people rides in the new models. 3. Loud thunderstorms frighten our dog. 4. The overtired workers kept the store open until 11:00 p.m. 5. The batter hits the ball straight into the bleachers 6. Chemical companies produce new insecticides each year. 7. The man's son painted the old shed bright blue. 8. The legislature did not include in the budget resources for the project. 9. Museum goers immediately notice the vibrant colors in the painting. 10. The author presents the story in a dispassionate way. EXERCISE #2 1. Three cats were rescued by Julia. 2. The reports were handed in by the students. 3. The blue car was crashed into by Maria. 4. The poem was learned by Alex. 5. The book was forgotten by Steven. 6. The DVD recorder has not been repaired by the mechanic. 7. Handball was played by them. 8. The rucksack was put on the floor by Sue. 9. The match had been lost by the girls. 10. The window is not going to be opened by the teacher.

9 EXERCISE #3 1. Four apples were bought by her. 2. The match was won by us. 3. The blue car was stolen by him. 4. The thieves were arrested by the police. 5. The 200 metres were swum by Jack. 6. The old lady was bit by the dog. 7. Five hamburgers were eaten by Tom and Max. 8. The children were taught by Oliver. 9. The brown horse was ridden by Victoria. 10. Good stories were told by Grandmother. EXERCISE #4 1. The film is watched by Mr. Jones. 2. English is spoken by the people. 3. Comics are read by him. 4. Volleyball is played by us. 5. Songs are sung by them. 6. Photos are taken by me. 7. Housework is done by her. 8. Children are helped by policemen. 9. Text messages are written by him. 10. Flowers are watered by Mother. EXERCISE #5 1. English is not spoken by them in this shop. 2. Dennis was asked a question by Kevin. 3. The house was built by somebody last year. 4. A box is given to him by her. 5. He will be looked after by Max. 6. A big steak was brought to Fred by the waiter. 7. Our bungalow was broken into by somebody last Friday. 8. A joke was told to us by the teacher. 9. Doris will be met by them at the station. 10. A text message has not been sent to me by Michael.

10 EXERCISE #6 1. active 2. active 3. active 4. active 5. passive 6. passive 7. active 8. active 9. active 10. passive EXERCISE #7 1. active 2. passive 3. passive 4. active 5. active 6. active 7. passive 8. active 9. passive 10.active 10

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