An author may write a sentence in one of two "voices"—active or passive. The active voice emphasizes the performer or agent of the action: Wind disperses plant seeds. We have analyzed the results. What Is Passive Voice? The passive voice, in contrast, emphasizes the receiver or product of the action: Plant seeds are dispersed [by wind].
The relationship was investigated [by Smith et al]. The results have been analyzed [by us]. A particularly awkward and ambiguous form of the passive voice occurs when an author uses it as the receiver rather than the first-person pronouns I or we: It is concluded that the treatment is effective.
We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid D. From Active Voice or Passive Voice? Changing from passive to active voice corrects the error and strengthens the sentence: There were exceptions, however. For instance, in , one elegantly written paper began: But suppose the authors had taken the passive point of view: Emphasize the Active Voice Nowadays, most medical and scientific style manuals support the active over the passive voice.
Here is a small sampling: Molecular structure of nucleic acids. AMA Manual of Style: A Guide for Authors and Editors. Oxford University Press; Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 6th ed. Oxford Journals Web site: Accessed March 5, The essentials of BMJ style. Westbrook G, Cooper L. Techniques for clear scientific writing and editing. The Society for Neuroscience Web site: In a sentence written in the passive voice the subject receives the action.
The candidate believes that Congress must place a ceiling on the budget. It is believed by the candidate that a ceiling must be placed on the budget by Congress. Researchers earlier showed that high stress can cause heart attacks. It was earlier demonstrated that heart attacks can be caused by high stress.
Look for a "by" phrase e. A main verb is active when the subject of the sentence is the doer or the agent of the action. A main verb is passive when the subject of the sentence is the receiver of the action. This is how passive is formed in different tenses:. The agent of the action is not always stated in a passive voice sentence. Sentences containing active voice can be easier to process and understand than passive voice sentences.
This is because they provide more information the agent of the action , and possibly because native English speakers are accustomed to receiving the information in the order agent-action-receiver. Wealthy business CEOs forced low-income renters to leave their neighborhoods to make room for large scaled urban development. Low-income renters were forced to leave their neighborhoods to make room for large scaled urban development. Because readers may experience active voice sentences as clearer than passive voice sentences, professional writers are often urged to limit the use of passive voice.
Passive voice is frequently used in lab reports and Methods sections of research reports because it puts the emphasis on the experiment or process being described rather than on the researcher. In the examples below, note how omitting the agent of the action emphasizes the experiment itself and excludes irrelevant information: Infinitives, the indefinite form of verbs e.
The parliament is the only institution that answers directly to the European citizens. European wide elections are held over the course of three days every five years to elect the representatives.
Get Grammar Girl's take on active voice versus passive voice. Learn whether passive voice is always wrong, or if it is sometimes preferred to active voice.
Myth: The passive voice always avoids the first person; if something is in first person (“I” or “we”) it’s also in the active voice. On the contrary, you can very easily use the passive voice in the first person.
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. In a sentence written in the active voice, the subject of sentence performs the action. Active and passive voice Readers prefer active voice sentences, and we should try to use the active voice in most of our business writing to communicate our message most effectively. Active voice clearly identifies the action and who is performing that action.
Reviewing examples of active and passive voice can make it easier to understand the difference. Active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. In passive sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb. In a sentence, main verbs can be in active or passive voice. A main verb is active when the subject of the sentence is the doer (or the agent) of.