Active and Passive Voice: Difference in Use
The Grammar Aspect of Voice
The usage of active and passive voice of the verbs in English is different. There is a range of advantages and disadvantages of each of them in different styles of writing. It is a challenge for a writer to make the right choice and decide on the voice that is the most appropriate for a research paper. The inflection of the verb depends heavily on the grammar aspect of voice that also influences the intonation, emphasis on a certain idea and stress peculiarities. It should be noted that the relationship between the state / action expressed by the verb and the objects / subjects of the verb is affected by the voice as well.
How to Differentiate between the Passive and Active Voice?
Active voice is used when the doer of a certain action is the main subject of the sentence. However, if the main sentence subject of the sentence is the target of a certain action, it is more advisable to use the passive voice.
- The cat drank a plate of milk. (‘Drank’ is a verb in the active voice as the main subject of the sentence is the doer of the action – ‘the cat’.)
- The whole plate of milk was drunk by the cat. (‘Was drunk” is the verb in the passive voice as the main subject is the action target – ‘the whole plate of milk’.)
Additional examples of active voice verbs and sentences:
- Jim’s parents bought a new car last Wednesday.
- The boy broke the window with a ball.
Additional examples of passive voice usage:
- A new car was bought last Wednesday by Jim’s parents.
- The window was broken by the boy with a ball.
Difference in Usage between the Voices: Active and Passive
The majority of writing forms require predominant usage of active, not passive voice. The English language tends to the active voice in all communication fields as its usage makes the ideas clear. The listener or reader easily understands who the subject in the sentence is and what action is the subject doing. However, passive voice verbs are more appropriate in certain cases as an exception to the common rules of writing accepted in schools.
Provided that the author wants to emphasize the target of the action instead of the doer, it is more appropriate to use the verb in passive voice. Although writing research papers mostly requires active verbs, such types of writing as reportage, crime or mystery have a more intense effect if in the choice between the active and passive voice the writer tends to use passive. This technique is especially effective if nobody knows who the doer of the action is. For instance, such sentences as ‘The window was broken’ or ‘The plane was hijacked’ require a verb in passive. Passive structures are also preferable for mathematical expressions and lab reports as they make the focus on the result or report content, not the doers. The examples that illustrate this usage are the following: ‘Six was divided by two to arrive at three’ or ‘Three species were taken for the experiment.’