The passive voice is used when writing when you want to emphasize the object of a sentence, while the active voice is used when you want to emphasize the subject of a sentence. Knowing the difference between the two is essential for both students and writers to understand. If you want to teach both, be sure to identify the subject and the verb in a sentence, explain the difference between the active and passive voice, and rearrange the sentences from passive to active using the same verb tense.
Method 1 of 4: Explain the Active Voice
Step 1. Identify the subject and the verb in a sentence
For a sentence to be effectively a sentence, it must have a subject and a verb. The difference between active and passive voice depends on the order in which these parts are located. Write a sentence and underline both the subject and the verb so that you can easily identify them.
For example: "She threw the ball to her dog." "She" is the subject and "launched" is the verb
Step 2. Explain that the active voice occurs when the subject comes before the verb
To use it, your students need to understand that, in a sentence, the subject must come before the verb. Make sure they understand that the subject must perform the action indicated by the verb for the sentence to be in active voice.
In the sentence “She threw the ball to her dog”, “She”, the subject, is placed before “threw”, the verb
Active voice sentences also flow better and sound more natural.
Step 3. Emphasize the importance of the active voice
When writing, the active voice is the preferred voice, as it engages the reader and flows well. Instruct your students to use the active voice whenever possible.
The passive voice is correct at times, but should be used sparingly and in the correct context
Method 2 of 4: Identify the Passive Voice
Step 1. Explain that the passive voice occurs when the verb acts on the object
The passive voice is defined as a sentence that does not have an active voice occurring within it. To identify it, look for sentences where the verb performs an action on the subject or object of the sentence.
For example, the sentence "The fish was caught by the seagull" is in the passive voice. "The fish" is the object of the sentence, while "was caught" is the verb
Step 2. Use the passive voice when you don't know the subject of the sentence
Sometimes it is correct to use the passive voice, as in cases where the subject of a sentence is unclear or unknown. Tell your students to use it sparingly to add suspense to their writing.
For example, the sentence “The documents were stolen” uses the passive voice because you don't know who did it
Step 3. Look for forms of the verb “to be” to identify the passive voice
Passive voice sentences usually have some form of the verb "to be" in them. Pay attention to phrases such as "has been", "have been", "is", "are" and "were", as they are indicators of the passive voice.
Not all sentences that include the verb "to be" use the passive voice and not all those that are in the passive voice have a form of the verb "to be" in their structure. Use this as a guide, not a rule.
Method 3 of 4: Change Sentences from Passive Voice to Active Voice
Step 1. Identify the verb in the sentence in the passive voice
The best way to start rearranging a passive sentence is to start with the verb. Look for action words that describe what someone or something is doing in the sentence.
- For example, in the sentence "The cat was scared by the dog," "scared" is the verb.
- In the sentence "Machines are used to mix ingredients", "used" is the verb.
Step 2. Ask your students who or what performs the action of the verb to find the subject
You will probably need to add new information to find out who or what the subject is. Identify the subject of the sentence in the passive voice to start writing the new sentence in the active voice.
- For example, in the sentence "The cat is frightened by the dog", "the dog" is the subject.
- In the sentence "Machines are used to mix ingredients", you do not know who or what the subject is because it is not included. Use contextual clues to determine the subject. In this example, "chefs" or "bakers" are two possible subjects.
Step 3. Keep the same tense
When changing from passive to active voice, it is important to maintain the integrity of the sentence. Be sure to identify if the sentence is written in the past, present, or future tense, and keep it the same when transferring it.
- For example, in the sentence "The cat is frightened by the dog", "is frightened" is in the present tense.
- In "Machines are used to mix ingredients", "are used" is in the present tense.
Step 4. Place the subject before the verb in the sentence to make it an active voice
The last step in completing a transition from passive to active voice is to make sure the subject comes before the verb. Rearrange the order of the words in the sentence so that it becomes active.
- For example, the sentence "The cat is frightened by the dog" becomes "The dog frightens the cat."
- The sentence "Machines are used to mix ingredients" becomes "Chefs use machines to mix ingredients."
Emphasize the difference between the clumsier passive sentence and the softer active sentence. This will help you consolidate the difference between the two oces in your students' goals.
Method 4 of 4: Do Activities to Teach Younger Students
Step 1. Complete an action and ask your students to describe what you did
Stand in front of the classroom and perform a simple action, such as dropping a pen on the floor. Ask your students to use their words to describe what you did. When someone says, “He dropped his pen on the ground,” write that sentence on the board as an example of the active voice.
If you teach high school or college students, this activity might be too youthful for them. Just switch sentences from passive voice to active voice
Make sure the highlighted action is simple and easy to describe in a short sentence.
Step 2. Take an action and write it in a passive voice
You can repeat the action in active voice or choose a new one. Tell your students that this time, you will tell them what happened. Drop your pen to the ground and write "The pen was dropped to the ground." Point out this as an example of the passive voice.
If your students have understood the passive voice so far, they might discover the passive form of your action on their own
Step 3. Drop some objects to teach the importance of changing the verb
It can be difficult for your students to remember to change the verb from singular to plural in a passive sentence. Drop two or more pens in front of the class and ask them to describe your action using the passive voice.
Students should write "The pens were dropped to the ground." Point out the importance of "were" versus "was."
Step 4. Talk about the things the government does using the passive voice
Ask your students to think about the kinds of things that the government does in the community. Ask them to create sentences that describe what the government does using the word “the government” in them. This will force the sentences to be converted to the passive voice.