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Hi everybody, my name is Alisha. Welcome back to EnglishClass101.com's YouTube channel.
Today I'm going to talk about the difference between active voice and passive voice.
In this lesson, I want to explain a few ways that I think can help you decide how to choose
between active voice or passive voice, this will be hopefully useful for your speaking
and for your writing skills.
So, let's get started!
Okay, the first thing I want to talk about is the active voice.
English uses a lot of sentences in the active voice, we like to use active voice a lot in
speech and in writing.
So we use active voice when we want to place emphasis on the subject, like the person or
the thing that is doing an action or causing an action, so the emphasis here is on the
We know the subject of the sentence in the case of the active voice and we want to emphasize
that the person who is doing an action, for example, you want to emphasize that you know
who is doing the action, use the active voice.
So an example could be, a thief stole my bag; in this situation, we know a thief stole my
bag, here, the simple past tense is used and we have “my bag” as the object here, so
everything is clear, everything is known in this sentence.
I'm going to talk about a different style, a different way to explain this sentence in
just a moment, but we can use the active voice to explain a situation like this.
Another example, my coworker deleted an important file; so here's another situation we know
who did the action, my coworker, in this case.
Simple past tense “deleted” here shows the action that happened, the action that
occurred and what was deleted, an important file, here.
So again, I'm going to talk about a different way to explain this sentence in just a moment,
but these are a couple ways we can use active tense or active voice rather when all the
information is known.
Some more simple sentences, I ate dinner; again, the subject, the verb, and what was
being eaten here, in this case.
I ate dinner; very simple sentence here.
He took me to a movie; so we know the subject, the action, who is receiving the, in this
case, it's me, here.
She made dinner; again, very very simple sentences.
We can make simple sentences in just three words, for example, with the active voice,
it's very very easy to use active voice, we just need to know the subject, what they did,
and who received the effect or who that action occurred to.
To put it in a strange way so we can use active voice to explain a lot of things in a very
very short way, but sometimes active voice is maybe not the best choice, so let's take
a look at passive voice and see if we can compare a few things here when we talk in
the passive voice or when we write in the passive voice.
We do it because we want to place emphasis on the object of an action, something which
is receiving the action; we want to place the emphasis on that or we use it when the
subject is unknown or unimportant.
So to give a few examples, let's look here, my bag was stolen; here “my bag,” this
is the thing that an action has occurred to, so, and you can think of it like the bag is
the one or is the object that is receiving the action here.
My bag was stolen, my bag was stolen.
So we have to use a different grammar to explain in passive voice, so the difference here,
“my bag was stolen,” the difference between this sentence and “a thief stole my bag,”
is that we don't have a clear doer of the action, we're not talking about specifically
who stole my bag but rather the important point here is that my bag was stolen, it doesn't
matter who or we don't know who stole the bag, but I want to emphasize this situation.
In this case, passive voice is much much better than active voice because I don't know the
Let's look at one more example, an important file got deleted; so here, you'll see “got,”
we use “got” a lot, this past tense “got,” to a rather past participle “got,” in
passive voice a lot, it gives kind of more of a nuance of something negative occurring,
it gives sort of the feeling that a negative outcome has happened as a result of the situation.
So you might see “got deleted,” or “got + the verb” in this case.
So here I've used “got deleted,” I'll show you one more in just a just a second.
So here, an important file got deleted, let's compare this to the active voice, my coworker
deleted an important file; in the active voice, I know who deleted the file, my coworker deleted
the file, in the passive voice, however, I don't mention my coworker so maybe I don't
know who deleted the file, I don't know who completed the action, who did the action,
so I can drop that name, I can drop “my co-worker,” I can drop the name of the person
who did the action.
I want to emphasize the situation, the file, the important file got deleted, that's what
I want to emphasize in this case, I should use the passive voice, this sounds much much
better if I want to emphasize “the important file.”
If however I want to emphasize “my coworker,” for example, I'm angry with my coworker, I
could say my coworker deleted an important file, in this case, the emphasis is “my
In this sentence, the important file is the emphasis, so this is a really key point between
the difference between active and passive forms.
Okay, let's look at a few more examples, so next one, your lunch got eaten; so again,
I've used this “got” here, yeah, I've used “got + eat in the past participle form
of the verb.”
So as I talked about in this sentence “got deleted,” we use “got” to show kind
of a negative outcome, something we didn't want to happen necessarily, this is very common
in passive voice.
So your lunch got eaten by whom, we don't know, somebody ate this person's lunch but
we don't know who did the action so we can omit that person and we can simply emphasize
your lunch, your lunch, here, this is the focus of the sentence, your lunch got eaten.
Okay, let's take a look at one more sentence, their window was broken.
Their window was broken.
We don't know how the window was broken, maybe it was a person, maybe it was a burglar, maybe
it was bad weather, maybe just a strange accident, we don't know how or who broke the window
so we can omit, we can remove any identifying information about who or what completed the
action; instead, we focus on the window, their window was broken, this is the focus of this
Finally, let's look at one more.
Flowers were delivered to the office; in this sentence, we don't know where the flowers
came from, who ordered the flowers, we don't know any information about the situation,
but we simply want to report something we saw at the office, for example.
We can use the passive tense to do that, the flowers were delivered to the office.
So in each of these sentences, we don't know or it's not important who did the action or
what did the action, but we want to emphasize the object of the action, we want to emphasize
the person or the item receiving the action, in this case.
In active voice, however, we want to emphasize the person doing the action, or the thing
doing the action, so please keep this in mind when you're trying to choose between active
voice and passive voice.
If it's a known subject or if you want to emphasize that subject more strongly than
the item receiving that action, use the active voice.
If you don't know the subject or if you want to emphasize the object of the action, use
the passive voice.
I hope that those were a few good points, I hope that those are a few helpful ways to
help you remember how to use active voice and passive voice.
But if you have any questions or comments, let us know in the comment section,
or try to make a few sentences, if you like.
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