Active / Passive Voice

Definition

Trimble:
Active is when the subjet is doing whatever the verb describes ("X does Y").
Passive voice is when the subject isn't doing anything; instead it's being done to.
I really like the way Trimble differentiates the two forms (active/passive) in simple English, therefore, I have included his description below.

Active verbs move us forward; passive verbs move us backward. Active verbs give us the actor up front; passive verbs make us wait to learn the actor.

When to use it

There really isn’t a correct or incorrect form, both active and passive voices are grammatically correct. It’s a difference in style depending on the situation or audience. According to Purdue Owl, active voice should be used when you want to be “clear and direct”, and passive voice makes sense when the subject performing the action is “obvious, unimportant or unknown”.

Trimble adds that passive voice always includes a form of the verb // Be //. Examples: is, are, were, was, have been or has been, plus a past participle

How it can help your writing

The usage of the passive voice can help your writing because it “highlights the action and what is acted upon rather than the agent performing the action (Owl Purdue)”. Once again it depends on the audience and how you are trying to convey your message. Science related materials tend to use passive voice the most.

Examples of active voice

Bill climbed the mountain.

Someone has made the arrangements for us.

The delivery man delivered the package yesterday.

Surgeons successfully performed a new experimental liver-transplant operation yesterday.

Examples of passive voice

The mountain was climbed by Bill.

The arrangements have been made for us.

The packaged was delivered yesterday.

A new experimental liver-transplant operation was performed successfully yesterday.

Examples from Owl Purdue

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