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How to Use Active and Passive Voice with Wordvice AI

Understanding the difference between active and passive voice and being able to use both freely is an important part of learning English composition. Students are often encouraged to avoid using the passive voice because it can make a sentence come off as “weak.” However, there are situations in which the passive voice is appropriate. Read on to learn when and how to properly use active and passive voice.

Table of Contents

  1. How to Use Active Voice
  2. How to Use Passive Voice
  3. Difference Between Active and Passive Voice
  4. How to Change Passive Voice to Active Voice
  5. How to Change Active Voice to Passive Voice
  6. Changing Active and Passive Voice with Wordvice AI Tools

How to Use Active Voice

In active voice sentences, the subject performs the verb. These sentences make it abundantly clear who does what.

We submitted our assignments.

Here, the subject is “we” and the verb is “submit.” “We” -- the subject -- is doing the “submitting.” In other words, the subject is acting upon the verb.

The girl studies hard.
The dog chews his bone.
I work from home.

Can you see the pattern? Active voice sentences have the structure “subject-verb-object.” Sentences written in active voice are generally more direct and concise than their passive alternatives, which can be unnecessarily wordy. Most casual conversations are almost exclusively in active voice, and passive sentences tend to sound more formal. As such, using the passive voice can also come off as overly stiff or standoffish.

How to Use Passive Voice

Passive voice sentences, on the other hand, have the structure “object-verb-subject.”

Our assignments were submitted.

Here, it is unclear who submitted “our assignments.”

The food was purchased from the supermarket.
The samples were analyzed by the lab.
The donated books were organized.

Passive voice sentences are more commonly used in written English and typically appear more formal than their active voice counterparts. They also emphasize the action or the thing being acted upon rather than the “actor.” For example, take the sentence “The donated books were organized.” In this sentence who organized the books is unimportant; the emphasis is on the fact that the books were organized.

Differences Between Active and Passive Voice

Here is a summary of the differences between active and passive voice.

Active VoicePassive Voice
Structuresubject + verb + objectobject + verb + subject
Emphasisthe subjectthe object or the verb
Formalitycan be less formalgenerally more formal

Passive voice removes the emphasis from the subject; as such, passive voice sentences tend to appear more objective. This is why passive voice is often adopted when reporting scientific studies.

How to Change Passive Voice to Active Voice

While revising your writing, you may find that a sentence written in passive voice is too clunky and decide to change it to active voice while retaining the same meaning. To do so, you simply remove the auxiliary verb and replace it with the main verb. Then, you remove the preposition “by” (if it is present) and switch the positions of the subject and the object. Be sure to change the form of the words (such as pronouns) when necessary.

The composites were fabricated (by us).
We fabricated the composites.

The subject is often omitted from passive voice sentences; this is because the “actor” is often unimportant in passive sentences. As such, when changing a passive sentence to an active one, it may be necessary to identify the correct subject.

How to Change Active Voice to Passive Voice

You can reverse the steps above to change a sentence from passive voice to active voice.

John purchased the apples.
The apples were purchased (by John).

First, you switch the positions of the subject and object. Then you add an auxiliary verb before the main verb. Make sure to include the preposition “by” before the subject or omit the subject altogether.

Changing Passive to Active Voice with AI Tools

As you can see, passive and active voice are both used in different contexts to fulfill different purposes. But it can be difficult to know when to apply passive vs active voice in any given circumstances.

That’s where AI revision tools can be helpful in choosing passive or active voice. The Wordvice AI Paraphrasing Tool is adept at identifying places where your text is too long or doesn’t flow well due to passive voice construction (or even where active voice should be changed to passive to fit the context.

Let’s look at just a couple of examples of how the Wordvice AI Paraphrasing Tool can help you catch these style issues before you submit your work. See if you can identify the potential issues in the “Before” version before it is corrected.

Changing passive voice to active voice with AI in the Discussion section

With the free version of the AI Paraphrasing Tool, you have access to two revision modes: “Fluent” and “Academic.” While Fluent mode will add a sophisticated flare to your writing, choose Academic mode to revise your work in a way that conforms to most academic style guides.

In the example below, passive voice is changed to active voice by the AI Paraphrasing Tool in the research paper Discussion section to enhance clarity when summarizing basic findings.

passive to active voice ai

The passive-voice construction “heating process was observed…by the researchers” was changed to an active-voice construction: “The researchers noted that the heating process exhibited…” In this case, although the sentence is not shortened in word count, the meaning is clearer in the revised sentenced. Additionally, some other terms are elevated to be more academic and precise.

Changing active voice to passive voice with AI in the Methods section

In some cases, passive voice is preferable to active voice, and this is often true in the research paper Methods section. The example below shows how the AI Paraphrasing Tool can detect this context and revise the sentence to position the passive subject as the most important element of the sentence.

active voice to passive voice ai

Although the paraphraser moved “the threads” to the passive subject position, it also kept the original subject “the researchers.” Note that the AI Paraphrasing Tool does not have complete knowledge of the context of a given sentence or paragraph, and therefore will tend not to delete important key terms and phrases. In this case, “by the researchers” could likely be removed by the author to reduce wordiness. After running your work through the Paraphrasing Tool, be sure to edit the content as needed so that your work retains its intended meaning.

Although our paraphasing tool and proofreading tool will fix and rephrase most of the objective language and style issues in your writing, there are times when you might need more comprehensive revision before submitting your important work. Wordvice offers English editing services for any type of document, including expert academic editing for research papers and admissions editing for admissions essays and recommendation letters.