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How to Write Active and Passive English Sentences

The first style decision is writing with a voice. Writers have to choose to write an active or passive English Sentence.

In an active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action of the verb. The active voice of a verb simply denotes the form of the verb used when the subject is the doer of the action.

Example: The windstorm broke the window.

The passive voice of a verb is the form of the verb is used when the subject is being acted upon rather than performing the action. In a passive voice, the subject of the sentence is affected by the action of the verb. The passive should only be used if the focus or importance is required for the receiver of the action.

Example: The window was broken during the storm.

Using the appropriate tense of the verb "to be" and adding the past participle usually forms a passive voice sentence. In the following examples note that the tense of the verb to be in the passive voice is the same as the tense of the main verb in the active voice.

Example verb: to keep

Verb tense or form --- active voice --- passive voice

Simple present --- keeps --- is kept

Present continuous --- is keeping --- is being kept

Simple past --- kept --- was kept

Past continuous --- was keeping --- was being kept

Present perfect --- have kept --- have been kept

Past perfect --- had kept --- had been kept

future --- will keep --- will be kept

Conditional present --- would keep --- would be kept

Conditional past --- would have kept --- would have been kept

present infinitive --- to keep --- to be kept

perfect infinitive --- to have kept --- to have been kept

present participle --- keeping --- being kept

perfect participle --- having kept --- having been kept

Example sentences:

Active: I keep the milk in the fridge.
Passive: The milk is kept in the fridge.

Active: They stole the car.
Passive: The car was stolen.

Active: They are repairing the roof.
Passive: The roof is being repaired.

Active: A dog bit him.
Passive: He was bitten by a dog.

If you liked this page of English grammar explanations and samples and would like more - you can buy the 96 page grammar summary "Blueprint for English" eBook (for 5 dollars)and get the SentenceMaster practice word cards. Use this grammar eBook to become an English writer.

For additional English writing tips and examples go to the following links

How to write English Sentences - Introduction

How to write English Sentences 1 - start with a basic thought

How to write English Sentences 2 - choose one of the six basic sentence constructions

How to write English Sentences 3 - choose one of the four sentence types

How to write English Sentences 4 - choose the correct English verb tenses

How to write English Sentences 4a - choose the active or passive voice

How to write English Sentences 5 using Nouns

How to write English Sentences 6 using Noun Phrases

How to write English Sentences using Articles

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