Introduction

All of us have learned that staying active keeps us fit and fine, right? The same is applicable when it comes to the English Language. Voice in the English Language is a term used to denote ‘the form of the verb.’ It indicates if the subject in a given sentence is the doer or receiver of the action. The verb’s voice in the sentence expresses the relationship between the action and the participants.

According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, the passive voice is defined as the form of the verb used when the action of the verb simulates the subject. [1]

There are two types of voices, which are active and passive.

Active voice in a sentence denotes the noun or pronoun that serves as the subject in the sentence. Meanwhile, in the passive voice, the subject acts as the action in the sentence. It can also be said that the subject in the sentence is no longer active but passive. In this article, you will learn how to fix passive voice.

Summary

  • What is Passive Voice?
  • What is Passive Voice Misuse?
  • Ways to Fix Passive Voice Misuse
  • Creative Ways to use Passive Voice
  • Changing Passive to Active Voice
  • Conclusion

What is Passive Voice?

In the passive voice, the subject is followed by some other performer of the verb. It is often regarded as a bad writing habit by teachers and professors across the English-speaking world. But, it is not incorrect. It can come in handy. In the passive voice construction, the subject of the clause acknowledges the action of the verb. So, the formula would be putting the subject first, followed by some form of the verb, followed by the past participle of a transitive verb, and ending with an optional prepositional phrase.

On the other hand, the active voice is straightforward. It has a subject, a verb, and an optional object. The active voice connotes the subject is acting, while the passive voice denotes that the verb acts upon the subject. It should also be noted that the active voice doesn’t require a linking verb to make sense. On the other hand, the passive voice uses a linking verb, and the past participle of the main verb is present.

For example:

  • Active Voice: Maya will buy the refreshments for the party.
  • Passive Voice: The refreshments for the party will be bought by Maya.

Active and Passive voice

What is Passive Voice Misuse?

It should be taken into account that passive voice is not always suggested to use. This is why we need to learn how to fix passive voice. If we are writing anything with a definitive subject and it is performing an action, it is better to use active voice. Certain sentences are mistaken to be passive voices.

For example, ‘Jim’s favorite activity is kicking.’ This sentence is not in the passive voice despite being grammatically correct. The passive voice is not a grammatical error; it is a style. The easiest way to locate passive voice is to look for ‘being’ verbs and often the word ‘by.’ 

Another example of passive verb misuse is:

  • Active Voice: Dwight made the wedding cake
  • Passive Voice: The wedding cake was made by Dwight.

We can witness how to fix passive voice in the above sentence. Active voice makes the sentence simple and acts as a passive voice fixer.  

Passive voice can be used in certain specific situations. The most common is if there is an unknown doer committing crimes. “My car was stolen yesterday” is a perfect example. 

How to Fix Passive Voice Misuse?

Now the big question is, how to fix passive voice misuse? This can only be done by changing it to the active voice. If we want to change an active voice into a passive, consider ‘what’ or ‘who’ is acting, denoted in the verb. Then, the agent must be changed into the object of a ‘by the’ phrase.

For example, the passive voice is, “The book being read by the class.” To know how to fix passive voice, remove the ‘by’ phrase. Making ‘the class’ the sentence’s subject should be the plan. So, the active voice will be: “The class is reading the book.” Using the active voice is highly recommended if one needs to improve writing.

Creative Ways to Use Passive Voice

Here are some common uses of the passive voice:

  1. Beating around the bush

Jane Austen’s passive voice is one of her favorite methods when writing about her characters. One of the lines from her book ‘Sense and Sensibility’ said, “though his entreaties were carried to …. offense”. She could have easily rephrased the sentence in an active voice. The passive voice allows for more polite phrasing.

  1. Directing the reader’s attention

Putting more stress on the reception of the action of the verb than the performer of the action. For example, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s book ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ possesses this. “This treasure lying in its bed….were evoked by historians”. One can invert the sentence and say, “Historians evoked the treasure.” The author tries to highlight the action rather than the recipient.

  1. In scientific contents

Passive voice is used more here as we are stressing more about the object. For example, “The rat was placed in a maze.” The experiment becomes more important here.

  1. Avoiding Blame

It is acknowledging something that might be unpleasant. For example, “mistakes were made”. There’s no solid subject to blame.

Changing Passive to Active Voice

While understanding how to fix passive voice, the first thing one needs to do is interchange the subject and the object.

The next part of speech to be focused is on the verb. The goal should be to convert the main verb into its past participle or its third form. While changing the tense of the main verb, one needs to make sure the auxiliary verb is present. It is used to maintain the tense the sentence expresses. Using the preposition ‘by’ before the subject is mandatory in a passive sentence.

If there is a presence of adverbs in the active voice, one needs to ensure that the adverb is also included in the passive form. The following examples will make the process of converting from passive voice to active voice easier to understand. 

Example:

  • Active Voice: Lalit is learning German this year.
  • Passive Voice: German is being learned by Lalit this year.

If there is no explicit agent in the sentence, making the agent the subject will allow us to change into a passive voice. For example:

  • Active Voice: Results will be published next week.
  • Passive Voice: The authorities will publish the results next week.

Another example is where the agent is not being specified in the passive form. In that case, the agent is now acting as the subject.

  • Passive Voice: Mistakes were made.
  • Active Voice: We made mistakes.

Conclusion

All in all, we can observe the difference between active and passive voice. The former has a direct and strong tone, while the latter has an indirect and subtle tone. The active voice focuses on the doer of the action, while the passive voice is much more handy when the doer of the action does not need attention.

However, there are times when the passive voice does a better job arranging the sentence. Especially presenting an idea when the performer of the action needs to be undermined or put less emphasis than the recipient of the action. Sometimes, you need to know how to correct passive voice, but that will always depend on the sentence and the topic given.

Reference:

1. https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/american_english/passive_2