Spotting Active and Passive Voice

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Topic 2: Spotting Active and Passive Voice

Once you have an eye for it, spotting active and passive sentences is actually quite easy. 

Active sentences generally follow a simple construction of subject → verb → object.


Titus Andronicus rules his family with an iron fist.

Titus’s devotion to Rome is unequaled.

Passively voiced sentences have a quite different feel from that of active sentences. Put technically, passive sentences always contain a conjugated form of “to be” and a past participle of the verb. This is most easily demonstrated by changing the above examples into passive constructions.


The Andronici family is ruled by Titus’s iron fist.

Rome experiences unequaled devotion from Titus Andronicus.

Your Turn: Test Your Understanding

Test yourself to see if you can demarcate between active and passive voice.

If you had trouble, particularly with several of the longer sentences above, remember to pare the sentence down to its parts. Underline the subject, the verb, and the object. Consider how these three parts of speech relate to one another in accordance with the rules that we outlined above. This approach will help to eliminate the white noise of all of the modifiers, adjectives, and other parts of speech that do not bear much relevance on whether a sentence is in active or passive voice.