Active voice definition: The active voice is a style of writing where the subject completes the action of the sentence.
What is Active Voice in Writing?
What does active voice mean? In the active voice, the subject always “does” the action of the sentence. Chronologically, the subject will come before the verb in the sentence.
Most writing occurs in the active writing voice, as it is generally clearer and more concise.
Examples of Active Voice:
- Lexi mows the lawn.
- Corinne makes pancakes every Sunday.
In each of these sentences, the subject comes before the verb and object. The subject is “doing” the verb in the sentence. This is called the active voice.
If you imagine there is an arrow connecting the subject to the verb, active voice will always have an arrow going to the right.
How to Form the Active Voice
Writing in active voice: Active sentences are formed when the subject completes the action of the sentence.
Whether or not the subject is the first word of the sentence, active voice is used if the subject “does” the verb.
How to Write in Active Voice:
- I walked.
- Today, I walked.
- To the store I walked.
In each of these sentences, the subject is “I.” “I” is doing the action “walked.” “I” chronologically comes before the verb, walked.
How To Form an Active Voice Sentence:
- Start with a subject.
- Add a verb (after the subject).
- Add any modifiers.
Active Voice Example:
- Grandpa arrived
- Yesterday, Grandpa arrived at our house.
Active vs. Passive Voice: What’s the Difference?
The active writing voice is contrasted with the passive voice. The active and passive voices put emphasis on different elements of the sentence.
The active voice occurs when the subject “does” the action of the sentence.
The passive voice occurs when the action is done by what seems like it should be the object.
Passive Voice Example:
- The book was written by Jeanette Walls.
It seems like Jeanette Walls should be the subject.
- Jeanette Walls wrote the book.
However, book, which should be the direct object, is actually the subject of the sentence. A good key indicator for passive voice is a “to be” verb and past participle.
Active Voice vs. Passive Voice:
- Jeannette Walls wrote the book. (active)
- The book was written by Jeanette Walls. (passive)
Should You Avoid Passive Sentences?
Are passive sentences bad? Neither of the above example sentences is incorrect.
The active voice is used more often in writing. However, the passive voice may also be used for stylistic purposes. Furthermore, some phrasings (like “the book was written by”) are more common or acceptable in the passive voice than in the active voice.
Writing in the active voice is more concise, clear, and direct than the passive voice.
It should be noted that strictly writing in the passive voice is not acceptable. Writers who use the passive voice do so intentionally to communicate their purpose.
Active Sentence Examples
- Pete Wilson cut more than $1.9 billion from the 1998-99 budget approved by the Legislature. –The Sacramento Bee
Here’s how it would look as a passive sentence,
- More than $1.9 billion was cut by Pete Wilson from the 1998-99 budget, which was approved by the Legislature.
- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton ran the ball in for a third-quarter touchdown and did some dances that predate his existence on the planet by a couple of decades. –The Washington Post
Let’s take a look at that as a passive sentence,
- The ball was ran in for a third-quarter touchdown by Cam Newton, who did some dances that predate his existence on the planet by a couple of decades.
In many cases, active sentences are a better option in writing—especially news writing. The first example is especially clumsy written in the passive voice.
Exercises with Passive and Active Voice
Are these sentences written in active or passive voice?
- The chicken crossed the road.
- The role of Julius Caesar was acted by Orson Welles.
- My favorite song is sung by Whitney Houston.
- My dad purchased wood to build a new pergola for our backyard.
- The shoes were made in Spain.
Summary: What is an Active Voice?
Define active voice: the definition of active voice is when the subject performs the verb of a sentence.
The active voice is the most common type of writing. It occurs when the subject comes chronologically before the verb and the subject is the thing “doing” the action of the sentence. In active sentences, there is little confusion about which words are the subject, verb, and object.