Active and passive voice: elephant seal

2 - The Grammar Bit

The Grammar Bit!

Read the first three sentences opposite, which are in the active voice. Notice how the agent of the action, the subject (bold), always appears before the receiver of the action, the object (underlined). This has the effect of putting the focus on the subject, and it gives each sentence a very strong, clear voice.

Now read the three related sentences, which are in the passive voice. You’ll notice that in each sentence, the agent of the action has moved to the end and the receiver of the action has moved to the front (becoming the new subject). Notice how the word ‘by’ is commonly used in the passive voice to indicate who performed the action.

When writing in the passive voice, you may decide to leave out the agent of the action altogether (indicated by the brackets).This is known as the agentless passive! Discuss the effect of this with your talk partner.

Scintillating Sentences

Active voice
1) The sleeping giant slapped the king penguin repeatedly.
2) The ravenous king penguin swallowed the squid whole.
3) The beach master punctured the rival’s blubber.

Passive voice
1) The king penguin was slapped repeatedly (by the sleeping giant).
2) The squid was swallowed whole (by the ravenous king penguin).
3) The rival’s blubber was punctured (by the beach master).

“Can someone tell those pesky penguins that we really need our beauty sleep?”