what does it mean "passive voice use"?

See example:

These attacks were plotted and enforced by terrorists hate groups against this country.
asked Oct 24 '11 at 03:03 vernell Jenkins New member

2 answers


Active voice is always preferable in writing. In active voice, the subject directly does the action. You can change the passive voice in your sentence to active, by saying:


Terrorist hate groups plot and execute attacks against this country.

link comment answered Oct 24 '11 at 18:56 Shaila Fernandes Expert

The active and passive voice are the two choices you have for most sentences.  A simple example is:


I love you.  (Active)

You are loved by me. (Passive)


The two sentences mean the same thing, but in English, we generally prefer the Active Voice, because we know who is doing what to whom - "I love you."


The Passive voice turns this around, so that the person or thing doing the action comes after the verb, and the person or thing having the verb done to them comes before the verb - "You are loved by me."


You may have noticed a couple of other things about the passive:


1) it uses more words; and

2) we lose the passion!  ("You are loved by me" will not win anyone's heart!)


This loss of passion, energy, life is why people tend to use the passive when writing formal documents, to make them sound a bit more distant and less emotional. That's fine, up to a point, but it's a bad habit to get into, because it also makes writing dull and lifeless - that is, boring and tedious to read.


So, how do you spot a passive?


The passive has two main parts:


1) am, is, are, was, were, be, been or being; (any one or more of these words) and

2) a verb in the past tense (it's actually a past participle)


So, in your example, "were + plotted" and "were + enforced" (the second "were" is omitted because the first one works with both verbs)


A common third (though not actually necessary) element of the passive is the word "by" followed by a noun (person or thing).  This person or thing is the one actually doing the action.  In your example, it's the "terrorist hate groups" that "plotted and enforced".


To change the passive back into the active, you simply take the person or thing after the word "by" and put it back in front of the verb, and get rid of the "am, is, are..." word. If you are a native speaker, you will now automatically make the necessary changes to the verb.  If you speak English as a Second Language, you may find that tricky, and that's a bit too difficult to explain here.


So, in "You are loved by me."  you do this:


1) put the "me" back in front of the verb "loved"

2) get rid of the "are";

3) put the "you" after the verb;

4) get rid of "by"; and

5) tidy up


That will leave you with "me loved you" which, when tidied up, becomes "I love you."

link comment edited Oct 27 '11 at 08:38 Agreeonpurpose Contributor

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