Active sentence definition: Active sentences are sentences where the subject performs the action.
What is an Active Sentence?
A complete sentence includes both a subject and a verb. In active sentences, the subject is who/what is completing the action of the verb.
- Janet watches television.
- Janet = subject; watches = verb
How to Form Active Sentences
When forming active sentences, you place an emphasis on the subject performing the verb. Because people commonly think of placing the subject first in a sentence, this is how most sentences are formed.
Forming an Active Sentence:
- First, identify the subject: Children
- Second, identify the verb: played
- Third, create a sentence: The children played outside on the playground.
Active Sentence Examples:
- The employee completed the required training in order to be eligible for a promotion.
- Employee = subject; Completed = verb
- Restaurants offer incentives such as rewards programs to increase business.
- Restaurants = subject; Offer = verb
What is the Difference Between Active and Passive Sentences?
Active vs. Passive Sentences: In an active sentence, the subject is the one performing the verb; by contrast, in a passive sentence, the subject is the one receiving the action.
When forming a passive sentence, the writer places who/what is receiving the action in the subject’s spot of the sentence.
You may include who or what is performing the action later in the sentence or leave it out completely.
Active vs. Passive Sentence Examples:
Passive sentence where it is stated who/what is completing the action:
- Restaurants are cleaned by the busboys.
- Restaurants = subject receiving action
- Are cleaned = passive verb
- Busboys = completing action
We can make this active by switching the who/what is completing the action.
- The busboys clean the restaurant.
- Busboys = subject completing action.
- Clean = active verb.
- The restaurant = Object receiving action.
Passive sentence where it is not stated who/what is completing the action:
- Essays are written everyday in an English class.
- Essays= subject receiving action
- Are written = passive verb
Since this sentence doesn’t include an object, it can’t be converted into an active sentence.
Should You Avoid Passive Sentences?
In general, you should default to the active voice. Active sentences are much stronger and easier to understand for the reader, as they identify the subject completing the verb more clearly.
The passive voice is commonly used to obfuscate something, making writing obscure or even unintelligible. Since the purpose of writing is communication, it’s important to be as clear and direct as possible.
At times, however, writers may want to place more emphasis on what is receiving the action, and, in that case, a passive voice can be used. Or, if it is unknown who/what is completing the action, the passive voice could be used.
All in all, the passive shouldn’t be universally avoided. It should only be used intentionally with clear purpose, as the active voice is preferred.
Exercises with Active Sentences
Try to identify whether the sentences below are written in active or passive voice.
- The books are studied each year by a new group of students.
- After the play, the audience applauded enthusiastically.
- Artists enjoy flexible work schedules.
- Several species of animals are dissected by students when they take biology courses.
See answers below.
Summary: What are Active Sentences?
Define active sentence: In an active sentence, the subject is performing the action of the verb. This places more emphasis on who/what is completing the action.
- After reading the article, Chris knows how to form active sentences.
- Chris = subject performing action
- Knows = verb
- Books = subject receiving action
- Are studied = verb
- Audience = subject performing action
- Applauded = verb
- Artists = subject performing action
- Enjoy = verb
- Species = subject receiving action
- Are dissected = verb
- Students = completing action