1. caimomile
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    caimomile Member

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    Difference of active and passive voice.

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by caimomile, Aug 23, 2010.

    Well, as the title reads: what is the difference between the two. I find myself reading about it a lot here but I don't really get it. Can anyone explain this to me and give me examples?

    Also, can you guys give the advantages/disadvantages of both when used in story writing.

    Thanks.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Active voice explicitly states the actor as subject, and the action as a verb:

    Passive voice drops the actor to a lesser role, or omits the actor entirely:

    Sometimes you have to look closely to see the passivity:
    is passive, in contrast to:
    Usually forms of the verb to be are a good indicator of passive voice, but it's noy an absolute:

    is active voice, despite the presence of the word is.
     
  3. caimomile
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    caimomile Member

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    So active voice is used when the sentence "centers" around the actor/subject. Passive voice when the sentence "centers" around the action itself. I kinda get it now. Thanks Cog.

    So about their pros&cons in story writing...

    Can anyone tell me those..?
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Normally I would use mostly active voice for fiction and entirely passive for non fiction. However its my biggest challenge until six months ag I only ever wrote non fiction, and passive voice is my natural way of writing.

    With me writing first person present tense I have been using passive voice to help remove the I's and to provide asides and information. I have a number of people read over my first three chapters to my first book, none noticed it was first person present tense until they went back to edit it. I think the present tense is helping my temptation to use passive voice sound more active and the passive voice is toning down the present tense. But I could be wrong lol just going on the reports I have had back, one is my old English teacher from school and she normally notices everything:)

    EDIT: Its not often used in English but it came to me as I was writing a sentence lol I write quite a lot in middle tense it was a way to make the passivity of my essays more interesting. Middle tense is hard to explain but its when you take the subject and make the subject perform the action.

    Examples:
    The roast beef cooked in the oven.
    The boy washed himself


    I think I have it right its not the easiest thing to follow I only know about it because of a thick red pen on several essays telling me about it and I vaguely remember a Higher Grade English lesson on it (Scottish school exams).
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Passive voice is less powerful than active tense. Therefore a writer should opt for active voice as much as is reasonable.

    There are times when you either don't want to or cannot identify the actor, and passivevoice is the better choice in those sentences.

    But active voice puts more life into your writing. Even nonfiction currently favors active voice in modern writing.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Use mostly active voice, but don't use it exclusively. If you only use active voice, you can come off sounding like a drill sergeant barking orders. Tiresome.

    Writing isn't a science; it's an art. It requires taste and judgment.
     
  7. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Use passive voice if you want to create a sense of detachment. I.e. the narrator doesn't know what's going on around him, or he/she feels dichotomized, or it's a scene with two good friends who have tragically drifted apart.

    For ANY other situation, use active. :)
     
  8. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    First person is a person (in this context a POV), not a tense! And for an example of how to write first person without drowning in I's or passives, have a look at Jane Eyre which you can find for free online. There's much in the writing style that is dated and you won't want to copy, but Charlotte Bronte handles first person well.
     
  9. tasha.f
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    tasha.f New Member

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    Active vs. Passive voice.

    I'm working on trying to figure out the difference between active and passive voice.

    I understand it goes subject - verb - object I'm just having trouble figuring out how to change a sentence.

    Is my below ex. correct?

    I have a feeling - Passive voice
    I feel - active

    If anyone has any easy hints to figuring this out let me know because I'm having issues with it.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that the first one is passive, though if someone corrects me, I'll take their word for it. :) I'd change the example to:

    "Anger was felt by me." - Passive.
    "I was angry." - Active

    And, making more:

    "The eggs were cracked, separated, and beaten." - Passive.
    "I cracked, separated, and beat the eggs." - Active.

    "Three boxes of tissues were used." - Passive.
    "The mourners used three boxes of tissues." - Active.

    "The television series _Lost_ was watched by fewer people this week." - Passive.
    "Fewer people watched the television series _Lost_ this week." - Active

    "The roses are being pruned." - Passive.
    "The gardener is pruning the roses." - Active.

    But, to confuse you more:

    "The bus was driven." is passive, while
    "The bus was red." is active, and
    "The bus was late." is active.
    In the first case, someone is acting on the bus, and that's what makes it passive. In the second two, we're instead describing the bus or the state of the bus, so it's not passive. (Edited to note that the first one is passive unless we're anthropomorphizing the bus and giving it a Type-A personality, so that the word 'driven' can be interpreted as it would be in, "The corporate executive was compulsive and driven.")

    The same is true for
    "The cat was bathed in the sink." is passive, while
    "The cat was angry." is active, and
    "The cat was hunting." is active.

    And
    "The cat is being brushed." is passive, while
    "The cat is hunting." is active, and
    "The cat is wet." is active.

    Getting even more confusing:
    "The cat was bathed." may or may not be passive, depending on what you mean. If the statement refers to the act of bathing the cat, it's passive. If it refers to the state of the cat - essentially meaning "The cat was clean." but using "bathed" to mean "clean" - then it's not passive.

    Whee!

    ChickenFreak
     
  11. Horizon Noise
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    Horizon Noise Member

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    In general passive is 'done to', active is 'doing'.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In passive voice, the one who performs the verb action is not the subject of the sentence. Instead, the recipient or object of the action is the subject, and the actor is either omitted or referred to indirectly.

    Example:

    ACTIVE: Edgar Wilkes wrote a book about penguins in 1998.
    PASSIVE: A book about penguins was written in 1998 by Edgar Wilkes.
    or even: A book about penguins was written in 1998. (omitted actor)

    Passive writing is writing that is short on action verbs in active voice. In addition to passive voice, it may contain too static description. M ost often, the verb in static sentences is a form of the verb to be: is, am, were, are, was, etc, but can also take the form of other state verbs like appears:

    The ship appeared large and round, like a tremendous silver beach ball.
     

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