English Grammar Part 10: Verbs Voicing

Level: Basic
Time taken to Complete: 200 minutes


English is a complicated language. It’s rather annoyingly difficult in many respects, and somewhat simplified in others. Many people have difficulty with English spelling. The grammar has its ups and downs, but here is some help. This series is for those who would like to brush up on or learn about grammar and grammar terminology.

One of my favourite things about English grammar with verbs is voicing.  There are two voices, active and passive.  These voices involve a switch in position as to subject and object.

The active voice is more standard in English than it’s counterpart.  This involves the subject of the verb to be the one doing the action (in a manner of speaking), whereas in the Passive voice, the “subject” would be similar to the object of an active sentence.  Compare:
“I threw the remote.”  Active voice, I-subject, remote-object,
“The remote was thrown (by me).” Passive,
Although technically the remote is the subject of the second sentence, it is used as a object.  The use of the Passive voice is to be able to hide the one doing the action.  If you said, “The remote was thrown,” it could mean you don’t know who threw it, you are trying not to assume who threw it, or you’re trying not to blame someone for throwing it.  That also means you can omit it if you don’t know the who it is.  You can say, “The remote was thrown,” “The ball was hit,” or “The chair was moved,” which are all perfect passive constructions without a “subject” arguement.

To form the Passive voice, one must use a form of the verb to be, and then add the verb with it’s perfect form, in most cases -ed endings.  It’s perfect because you use the perfect with irregular verbs like the example above (throw-threw-have thrown).

Most teachers I’ve met don’t like the passive voice, but I’m actually rather fond of it, and it’s importance.  Latin for example has a whole set of conjugations for the Passive voice as well as the regular active voice.  It’s a good thing to notice, because sometimes passive constructions are needed.