active and passive

What’s the difference between “active” and “passive”? 

 Check out the examples below and then use these styles in your own writing and speaking. 

(This image was painted by Caravaggio.)

Active Voice

This is the most common kind of English sentence. It usually has three main parts: a subject, verb, and object

Japan makes cars
Susan painted this picture
Children all over the world love Mickey Mouse

Passive Voice

Passive sentences have an object and be + verb (past participle). They don’t need a subject

These cars are made in Japan. 
This picture was painted by Susan
Mickey Mouse is loved by children all over the world. 

Why do we use passive voice?

There are four good reasons to use passive voice. 

1. We don’t know who did something.
– The package was delivered successfully. 
– This house was built a long time ago. 

2. We don’t want to say who did something. 
– The copy machine was broken. (I did it, but I don’t want to say that.)
– The window was left open all night. (My friend did it, and I don’t want to say.) 

3. The object is the focus of the sentence. 
– These dishes are served during lunch. 
– This cake was made just for this event. 

4. Style!
Writing is more interesting when we use a mix of active and passive sentences, but take care. We don’t want to overuse one style or the other and sometimes one style is more common. 

Like this example? Did I forget something? Get in touch and let me know! 

Want a little extra practice? 
Try this worksheet to see some more memorable examples. Like what you see? Let’s talk in class! 

Scroll to Top