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Active Voice Versus Passive Voice

Today’s topic is active voice versus passive voice.

Here’s a question from Brian in Iowa. He writes, “It drives me crazy when people write in passive voice. How can I teach people how to tell the difference between passive and active voice and to stay away from passive voice?”

Well, Brian is right, the first step is to help people understand the difference between active and passive voice, because many people believe they should avoid the passive voice, but fewer people can define it or recognize it.

Passive Voice: Active Approach

It may seem like a contradiction, but there’s nothing “passive” about learning the passive voice. Students need to be as “active” as ever and fully engaged in their learning. But it is the teacher who must engage them. How do you get students actively engaged in learning something as tedious as the passive voice? With action, of course! By showing them that there is plenty of action involved, but that the focus is not on the actor, the one who is carrying out the action, but rather whoever or whatever is acted upon.

How to Teach Passive Voice

At the beginning of most English courses, students focus on learning active voice structures. It is usually the easiest way for them to phrase sentences, but as students progress in their studies, they will encounter passive voice sentences. Since this is an entirely new structure, spend plenty of time on the introduction and conduct several comprehension checks along the way.

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