Active Voice and Passive Voice – Information, uses and examples

We explain what the active voice and the passive voice are, the characteristics of each, differences between them and various examples.

active voice and passive voice
Passive voices are more complex and long than active voices.

What are the active voice and the passive voice?

In grammar and syntax, there is a difference between two different grammatical voices when it comes to conjugating the transitive verbs of the language:

  • The active voice supposes the presence of an agent subject, that is, of a subject who performs the action of the verb directly or actively.
  • The passive voice presents a patient subject, that is, a subject on whom the action carried out, then, by an agent complement falls passively.

Put like that, it sounds more complex than it is. We simply have to understand that the content of the same sentence can be expressed actively or passively, and that, according to each option, the syntactic ordering of the sentence elements will be different:

  • In active prayer, the subject executes the action by himself and therefore the verb is conjugated accordingly. In them, the subject-verb-object format is usually respected: “Pedro eats apples” or “My mother found a puppy”.
  • In passive prayer, the subject receives the action carried out by an agent complement that, in the active voice, would play the role of the direct object. In addition, the main verb of the active sentence changes to a participle (-ado, -ido), and the verb ser / estar is added as an auxiliary. Thus, the typical passive sentence structure is: passive subject-auxiliary verb-participle-preposition-agent complement. For example: “The apples are eaten by Pedro” or “A puppy was found by my mother.”

So, making the necessary equivalences between active subject and passive subject, direct object and agent complement, and also the necessary changes of the verb (and the preposition), we can transform any transitive sentence (that is, endowed with direct object) of its active to passive voice and vice versa.

There are, however, some cases that do not allow it, such as the verbs haber (“There is a lot of wind”) or tener (“I have a dog”), whose passive voices do not make much sense. In addition, there are cases in which the passive voice uses the pronoun “se”, known as passive-reflexes: “A house is sold”, and which constitute a kind of intermediate category.

In general, active voices are direct, simple and clear, while passive voices are more complex and long, and tend to dilute the responsibility of the subject in the action of the verb, as if suggesting that things happened by themselves.

Examples of active voice and passive voice

Here are some examples of active and passive voice sentences:

Active voicePassive voice
Your father brought another meal.The other food was brought by your father.
My dog ​​buries bones in the garden.The bones are buried by my dog ​​in the garden.
Did you deposit the check in your account?Was the check deposited (by you) into your account?
My cats hate this jam.This jam is hated by my cats.
Yesterday the technician formatted your computer.Your computer was formatted yesterday by the technician.
Your cousin Samuel sent you a letter in the mail.A letter was mailed to you by your cousin Samuel.