Monday, October 25, 2010

Voice, Part 3: Distinguishing Passive from Active Voice

When determining whether a sentence is active or passive, look for the association between the subject and verb. Start by looking for the action. In the sentence below, the action is bought, and the subject, Ms. Barnes, performed the action. When the subject of the sentence performs the action, the sentence is active.

Ms. Barnes bought the store last week.

In this next sentence, the action is was brought, and the subject, store, is acted upon. When the subject of the sentence is the recipient of the action, the sentence is passive.

The store was bought last week.

Passive voice uses the verb to be (e.g., am, are, is, was, were, be, being, been) and a part participle verb. Examples:

I am updated weekly by my supervisor on the project.

The buildings are monitored for safety.

Alexandra’s performance is reviewed by her manager.

Ben was told that he can begin the project.
They were alerted of the situation.

You will be invited to attend the meeting.

Carrie enjoys being given opportunities to brief management.

Donald has been sold the property.

As you can see, passive voice, as well as active voice, can appear in past, present, or future situations, so it is a mistake to think that passive voice means past tense.

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