Home Latest Articles Active and Passive Voice Tricks – 3 Golden Rules

Active and Passive Voice Tricks – 3 Golden Rules

by Chetna Vasishth

Hey there, and welcome back to the 21 day English speaking course. Today is Day No. 11 and in today’s class we will talk about
a) Active and Passive Voice – what is it, why do we use it
b) Three Golden Rules to help recognize Active and Passive Voice
c) Lots of examples and
d) A quiz at the end

So, what are voices? No, these are not some strange ghostly voices that you hear at night, but it is the voice with which you say something – example

1. You may either want to sound strong, direct, and have a clear tone. In this case you will use some short and straightforward sentences – e.g. I am watching a video – this is the Active Voice

2. You may want a more neutral or subtle tone and wish to sound like an objective bystander while reporting something perhaps – e.g. the video is being watched by me – The Passive Voice

The Active Voice

This is a direct, clear and concise style of speaking.
e.g. Sally is eating apples.
Active voice uses fewer words and creates a faster-moving narrative and makes it more engaging.
e.g. Dogs chase cats. (the dog is doing the action of chasing cats)
Dog is the subject, chase is the verb and cats is the object.
A verb is said to be in the active voice when the subject acts or is the doer of the action
? She has beaten him.
? You helped me.

Active Voice is a clear sentence and helps prevent grammatical mistakes.

The Passive Voice

Passive voice is the more neutral voice, used when we want to focus on the person or thing affected by the action somewhat like you are reporting events in a neutral tone.
? Apples are been eaten by Sally.
? Cats are killed by dogs.

A verb is said to be in passive voice when it is the receiver of the action or the subject is acted upon
? He has been beaten by her.
? I was helped by you.

Let’s take a look at another example –
The door opened The door was opened

Active Voice Passive Voice

Passive means that the subject is in the passive, it does not perform any action, like a neutral bystander observing and reporting.


There are three Golden Rules to help you identify if a verb is in active or passive voice

RULE # 1 –

The ‘X’ rule. The Subject becomes the object and the Object becomes the subject. (Do this by making an ‘X’ action with your hands.
Raoul holds a book
The book is held by Raoul
In Active the subject does something
E.g. The child petted the puppy
In Passive voice the subject receives the action
E.g. The puppy was petted by the child
Chetna is teaching English
English is being taught by Chetna

RULE # 2 –

Notice that in the passive constructions we have used a few extra words like is, was, were and are – These all are helping verbs
Helping verbs are called Auxiliary Verbs – they cannot stand on their own.
E,g, In active voice we say – Stars lit the sky
In passive voice can we say -The sky _____ lit by the stars ? (This sentence sounds unpleasant to the ears because something is missing?? What is it??? Yes, the auxiliary verb.)
The sky was lit by the stars.

RULE # 3 –

Passive voice is spoken by a passive “ BY” stander. Imagine this By Stander observing everything that is happening and sneakily reporting everything to a newspaper.
So in passive voice, 99% of the time you will find this word BY

Eg: The teacher teaches the class. (ACTIVE VOICE)
The class was taught by the teacher. (PASSIVE VOICE)
He opens the door
The door is opened by him

So, what is that 1% of the time when the “BY” agent is not used. The answer is simple. When the sentence is understood and the meaning is already implied the by agent is omitted.
Eg: The workers construct the building.
The building is constructed. (PASSIVE VOICE)
(here “by the workers” is understood…you can bring in some humour by saying dogs and cats won’t come and construct the building so “by” is omitted.)
Eg: Someone stole my purse. (ACTIVE VOICE)
My purse was stolen. (here “by someone” is understood and so the “by” agent is omitted.)

Let’s work on this fun example together:
Below is given a set of instructions on preparation of instant coffee. Convert each of these sentences into passive voice
? Boil Water.
? Take one teaspoon each of instant coffee and sugar.
? Add boiling water and stir the mixture vigorously.
? Warm milk separately.
? Add warm milk to the mixture and stir.
? Hot instant coffee is ready to drink.
First water (a) is boiled
Then a teaspoon of instant coffee and one teaspoon of sugar (b) is added.
Then boiling water (c) is added and the mixture is stirred vigorously.
Milk (d) is warmed separately.
Warm milk (e) is added to the mixture and it is stirred.
Hot instant coffee is ready to drink.


Given below are a set of 5 instructions to be followed by a person suffering from common cold.
Convert them to passive voice:
? Avoid cold or chilled products
? Make a decoction of ten mint leaves in a cup of water
? Add a teaspoon of honey before drinking it at bed time
? Keep a cut onion by the side of the bed to inhale

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