Active vs Passive

This is an example of Active vs Passive

Active vs passive can get confusing sometimes. I have broken it down to clarify the difference between the two.

When do you use active?

You would use active when

  1. You know who performed the action
  2. You want to focus on who did the action

e.g.: Bob built the house.

The active verb tense is often called active voice

When do you use passive?

There are couple reasons why you would use passive voice.

  1. You don’t know who performed the action
  2. You don’t want to name who did an action
  3. You don’t know the gender of the person who performed the action

You form a passive sentence with be + past participle

  • e.g. The house was built by Bob.

The passive verb tense  is often called passive voice.

For more on the passive voice check out this post.

What is the difference between Active and Passive?

The primary difference is where the focus is. Let’s look at our examples.

Bob built the house. (Active)

  • In this example ‘Bob’ is our subject and ‘the house’ is the object.

The house was built by Bob. (Passive)

  • In this example ‘the house’ is our subject and ‘Bob’ is our object

So what happens is that your Subject in active becomes your object in passive and vis versa.

What are some common problem areas?

People often confuse passive with the past.  Because you form a sentence with be + participle, it can be confused with the past.

  • e.g. The car is broken.

In this example ‘broken’ is the past participle of break, therefore, some people may assume that the sentence is past. However, it is the ‘is’ in the sentence that dictates the verb tense.

Have any questions or comments? Leave a comment below.

This is a cross post from another site that I run.


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Iain Robson

A teacher, a learner, and all round nice guy. I love talking to people through social media, and in real life. Feel free to connect with me on twitter

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