Active voice essay examples

Active voice essay examples

Use the active voice

Generally, try to use the active voice whenever possible. Passive voice sentences often use more words, can be vague, and can lead to a tangle of prepositional phrases.

Active vs. passive voice

In a sentence written in the active voice, the subject of sentence performs the action. In a sentence written in the passive voice the subject receives the action.

Active: The candidate believes that Congress must place a ceiling on the budget.

Passive: It is believed by the candidate that a ceiling must be placed on the budget by Congress.

Active: Researchers earlier showed that high stress can cause heart attacks.

Passive: It was earlier demonstrated that heart attacks can be caused by high stress.

Active: The dog bit the man.

Passive: The man was bitten by the dog.

Converting sentences to active voice

Here are some tips and strategies for converting sentences from the passive to the active voice.

Look for a «by» phrase (e. g., «by the dog» in the last example above). If you find one, the sentence may be in the passive voice. Rewrite the sentence so that the subject buried in the «by» clause is closer to the beginning of the sentence.

If the subject of the sentence is somewhat anonymous, see if you can use a general term, such as «researchers,» or «the study,» or «experts in this field.&quot

When to use passive voice

There are sometimes good reasons to use the passive voice.

To emphasize the action rather than the actor

After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by the long-range planning committee.

To keep the subject and focus consistent throughout a passage

The data processing department recently presented what proved to be a controversial proposal to expand its staff. After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by. . . .

To be tactful by not naming the actor

The procedures were somehow misinterpreted.

To describe a condition in which the actor is unknown or unimportant

Every year, thousands of people are diagnosed as having cancer.


In most English sentences with an action verb, the subject performs the action denoted by the verb.

These examples show that the subject is Doing the verb’s action.

Because the subject does or «acts upon» the verb in such sentences, the sentences are said to be in the Active voice.

One can change the normal word order of many active sentences (those with a direct object) so that the subject is no longer Active, but is, instead, being Acted upon by the verb — or Passive.

Note in these examples how the subject-verb relationship has changed.

Because the subject is being «acted upon» (or is Passive), such sentences are said to be in the Passive voice.

NOTE: Colorful parrots live in the rainforests cannot be changed to passive voice because the sentence does not have a direct object.

To change a sentence from active to passive voice, do the following:

1. Move the active sentence’s direct object into the sentence’s subject slot

2. Place the active sentence’s subject into a phrase beginning with the preposition By

3. Add a form of the auxiliary verb Be to the main verb and change the main verb’s form

Because passive voice sentences necessarily add words and change the normal Doer-action-receiver of action direction, they may make the reader work harder to understand the intended meaning.

As the examples below illustrate, a sentence in active voice flows more smoothly and is easier to understand than the same sentence in passive voice.

It is generally preferable to use the ACTIVE voice.

To change a passive voice sentence into an active voice sentence, simply reverse the steps shown above.

1. Move the passive sentence’s subject into the active sentence’s direct object slot

2. Remove the auxiliary verb Be from the main verb and change main verb’s form if needed

3. Place the passive sentence’s object of the preposition By into the subject slot.

Because it is more direct, most writers prefer to use the active voice whenever possible.

The passive voice may be a better choice, however, when

  • The doer of the action is unknown, unwanted, or unneeded in the sentence
  • The writer wishes to emphasize the action of the sentence rather than the doer of the action
  • The writer wishes to use passive voice for sentence variety.

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Active vs. Passive Voice

Active Voice – If a sentence is written using the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action expressed by the verb.

  • Example: John wrote the essay.
  • Example: Christine plays basketball.

Passive Voice – If a sentence is written using the passive voice, an action is performed upon the subject of the sentence.

  • Example: The essay was written by John.
  • Example: Basketball is played by Christine.

The active voice is generally preferred in academic writing, so it should be used throughout most essays. Using the active voice tends to make sentences more clear and less wordy. This becomes particularly important in longer sentences. Using the active voice allows for writing to be less wordy, and this makes for better writing.

There are exceptions when the passive voice is used, such as when the noun performing the action is obvious, unimportant, or unknown. This is because using the passive voice draws attention to the action itself rather than the noun performing the action. For instance, the passive voice is often used in scientific writing, such as in lab reports, where the emphasis is placed on the action.

  • Example: “A successful operation was performed” may be preferable to “The doctor performed a successful operation” because it highlights the operation itself, rather than the doctor.

Either way, all writers should be aware of the differences between the active voice and the passive voice and use the appropriate one for any given assignment. When in doubt, use the active voice.