General Rules on Voice

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Topic 1: Basic Rules and Definitions

In relation to grammar, “voice” is all about the subject and the action in a sentence. Throughout the following lesson, then, we will be covering how subjects can be best related to verbs. Verbs have many attributes, but among these, voice is key. There are two grammatical voices in English: active and passive. When the verb in a sentence has a certain voice, the whole sentence is changed, meaning that a sentence with a passive-voice verb is itself in passive voice. 

Put simply: A sentence is in active voice when the subject is also the agent (the “doer”) of the action in the sentence. 


Shakespeare wrote Hamlet in his prime.

In Hamlet, the protagonist attempts to avenge his father’s death.

In the above examples, first “Shakespeare,” then the “protagonist” are the subjects. The subjects, in both of the examples, are doing the verb. In the first example, Shakespeare “wrote” Hamlet. In the second example, the protagonist attempts to “avenge” his father. These are, then, both in active voice.

A sentence is in passive voice when its subject has the action of the sentence “enacted” upon it. That is, when the verb of the sentence acts on the subject, the sentence is in passive voice.  


Hamlet was written by Shakespeare when he was in his prime.

In Hamlet, an attempt at revenge is made by the protagonist.  

In both of the above examples, the subject (“Hamlet” in both sentences) has the verb (“written” and “attempt,” respectively) enacted upon it, making them both passive. 

Your Turn: Test Your Understanding

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