Active and Passive Voice
Download Free PDF Worksheets
The worksheets explain the concept of active and passive voice, including suggestions for the appropriate use of the passive voice. Exercises provide students with the opportunity of recasting sentences from passive to active or from active to passive, depending on the context.
|Worksheet 1, Active and Passive Voice, 9 Exercises|
|Worksheet 2, Active and Passive Voice, 16 Exercises|
|Worksheet 3, Active and Passive Voice, 15 Exercises|
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Inexperienced writers often use passive voice instead of active voice in their writing, creating weak prose that is difficult to understand. Recognizing the passive voice in your own writing and knowing how to rewrite sentences in the active voice will make your writing style more vigorous and easy to read.
Recognizing the Passive Voice
In passive voice constructions, the person or thing that does the action is buried at the end of the sentence in a prepositional phrase or is not stated at all. The thing that something is being done to is the grammatical subject of the sentence. Take a look at the following sentence.
The report was misplaced.
What is the thing that was "misplaced"? The report. Notice that it is the grammatical subject of the sentence. Who misplaced the report? The writer does not tell us. The person who does the action, arguably the most important element of the sentence, is not even mentioned. This sentence can also be rewritten in the following manner, to include the person who misplaced the report (often called the "agent" or "doer" of the action).
- The report was misplaced by Mr. Jenkins.
Notice that the writer chooses to hide Mr. Jenkins, the agent or "doer" of the action, in a prepositional phrase at the end of the sentence. These two sentences illustrate the passive voice. It is characterized by the use of the verb "to be" (is, was, were) as a helping verb to a main verb in the present (ing) or past (ed) participle.
Rewriting in the Active Voice
The most recognizable and comfortable sentence pattern in English is "Subject + Verb + Object." The subject is usually the agent, as in "Joe hit the ball," which is in the active voice. Compare "Joe hit the ball" (active) with "The ball was hit by Joe" (passive). To rewrite a sentence in the active voice:
- Identify an agent or "doer" of the action. If no agent is stated in the original passive sentence, create one. (Joe, in the example above.)
- Identify the action that the agent is doing and make that action a verb in the simple present tense or past tense (hit, the verb in simple past tense.)
- Identify the thing that the subject is doing something to. (the ball).
- Rewrite the sentence, placeing the agent in the subject position.
Passive Voice is Appropriate at Times
There are times, however, where the passive voice is more appropriate than the active voice. For example, if you consciously want to hide the agent or if the agent is not really relevant, use the passive voice. For example, the sentence, "The Baseball Writers Association voted Andre Dawson into the hall of fame" lacks the proper emphasis. The emphasis should be Andre Dawson, not the organization that voted him into the hall, thus "Andre Dawson was voted into the hall of fame." This is one case where the passive voice is more appropriate than the active voice.
But remember; this is the exception. In general, use the active voice in your writing. Your writing will have more vigor and be easier to read than if your writing is full of passive constructions.
Worksheet 1, 9 Exercises
The following exercises are in the free PDF worksheets. The worksheets may be reproduced freely, and students must write out the complete, correct sentence.
- When the Phillies's Shane Victorino overran him, third base was stolen by Johnny Damon.
- A happy Thanksgiving is wished by me for everyone.
- The attorney general indicted the notorious gangster, Al Capone, for federal income tax evasion.
- The student services committee forwarded revised disciplinary procedures to the campus president.
- Six Thousand shares of Disney stock were bought by Jenny Allen when she was only nineteen.
- People can view the dazzling meteor shower from the observation tower at the planetarium.
- The acceptance letter from Harvard was received by Jenny Arteaga last Tuesday.
- An invitation to Francis Suarez’s victory party was received by Mr. Packer, the state party chairman.
- The Baseball Writers Association of America named Joe Mauer, the Minnesota Twins’ catcher who led the American League with a .365 batting average, MVP for 2009.
Worksheet 2, 16 Exercises
- The window was broken.
- Whenever my family went camping, the emergency flashlight was left behind.
- Marlon Byrd of the Chicago Cubs was knocked down by Alfredo Aceves with a hard, inside fastball.
- Fifteen oak seedlings were planted by Mrs. Vigil’s second grade class.
- Biological diversity is considered a crucial survival issue by Professor Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University.
- The cashier was commended by the branch manager for her tactful handling of an irate customer.
- The wet umbrella was removed from the table by the server.
- The police officer was angered by Jason when Jason refused to present his identification card.
- The 2010 - 2011 budget was not approved by the appropriations committee.
- The playground area was left in a shambles after the birthday party.
- Dirk Nowitzki was guarded by Lebron James during the third quarter of Wednesday night’s championship game.
- Five hundred pounds of illegal drugs were confiscated by the Coast Guard in January of 2011.
- Thirty-seven migrants were found by Homeland Security inside a small van trying to cross the border in the middle of the desert.
- The Toyota Prius is manufactured in Japan by Japanese workers.
- A bill to force state employees to contribute to the retirement plan was signed by Governor Rick Scott yesterday.
- Victor was given the science award by the selection committee for his outstanding project on salt-water intrusion in the Biscayne aquifer.
Worksheet 3, 15 Exercises
- A “Mozzie” boomerang was thrown 50 meters by expert boomerang maker Adam Carroll.
- The German Enigma cipher, which prevented the allies from reading Nazi communications during World War II, was broken by British mathematician Alan Turing.
- A specific case of the Bayes’s theorem, which was a significant development in predictive statistics, was formulated by Thomas Bayes, a somewhat obscure Presbyterian minister and mathematician.
- The famous mathematics book Elements, which was one of the most important primary textbooks in the field until the 19th century, was written by Euclid of Alexandria.
- Involvement in the “deflategate” football scandal has been denied by New England Patriot quarterback Tom Brady.
- Three home runs were hit by Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper on May 6, 2015.
- The Washington Nationals drafted Bryce Harper in the first round of the 2010 amateur draft when he was only 18 years old.
- The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) scheduled the Indonesian Super League (ISL) to begin play in late February of 2015.
- The necessary paperwork and payments for eligibility to play in the Indonesian Super League had been submitted by only thirteen teams.
- Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, one of the most famous paintings of the Italian Renaissance that is displayed at the Louvre in Paris.
- The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo da Vinci, probably the most influential artist of the Italian Renaissance.
- The commission on automotive excellence named automobile pioneer Henry Ford as the most influential car maker of the 20th century.
- Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals was named the National League player of the week by the Baseball Writers Association.
- The Baseball Writers Association named Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals the National League player of the week.
- The United States Senate confirmed Loretta Lynch as United States Attorney General on April 23, 2015.
Passive Voice Links
- Writing Center, University of North Carolina
This is by far the best explanation of how the passive voice works, or does not work, in sentences. It discusses myths, different contexts where the passive voice is often used but not appropriate, and legitimate uses of the passive. If you need more in-depth information, click on my worksheet. Then click here :-)
- About.com ESL Page
Short, uses bullets, and provides clear exaples. Quick and easy.
- Capital Community College
Accurate and clear, with plenty of examples and tables about the passive formation. Includes an online quiz.
The explanation isn't great, but the tables with the different tenses akes up for the paucity of the explanation. The tables make understanding the passive construction easy.
- Dr. Wheeler's Grammar Page at Carson-Newman College
Excellent explanation about the "evils" of the passive voice (his term). Dr. Wheeler's enthusiastic embrace of the active voice is admirable, if a bit overdone. Take a look.