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Active Voice in English Grammar

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Actively throwing the ball…

When the subject performs the action described by the verbs we talk about sentences in the Active Voice.

By voice grammarians mean a grammatical category that shows whether the subject of a sentence is an actor or a recipient. In the active voice the subject is an actor. If the subject of a sentence is the recipient of the action described by the verb then we talk about passive voice‏‎.

The active voice is the simplest and most straightforward way to give information about the actor or doer and the doing. It is also the most commonly used in the English language.

The boy (doer) is throwing (doing) the ball.

Further information on what, how, why, when and where the doing takes place is usually placed after the main verb.

So the standard sentence structure in the active voice can be summarized by the SVO formula.

The boy (S) is throwing (V) the ball (O).

I (S) like (V) you (O)

Active vs Passive in Writing

In writing, the active voice tends to make the style tighter, more personal, and allows to introduce the action earlier in the sentences.

The active voice is generally perceived as more natural, direct, lively, and succinct. The passive voice is considered wordy and awkward. However this is not always the case. The passive voice is often a good choice when we want to put the emphasis on what has been done rather than on who did it or if we want to convey a message in a more formal and detached style.

Basically there is no right or wrong and the choice between using the active or passive voice in writing is a matter of style.

Useful Links

Verb Voice in English Grammar – an overview of active & passive in English

Grammar Foundation Course – a short course teaching the basics on English grammar

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