A Guide on Passive Voice in Writing

Most people steer away from using the passive voice in writing but in reality, using the passive is very common if you are writing in English. It may not the best way to convey a message but is an essential aspect of the language. In this guide, we will look at the passive voice closely so that you will understand what it is and when to and not to use hidden verbs in writing.

Let us start discussing what the passive voice is not.

Myth No. 1: There is always a grammatical error in the passive voice.

You are not committing a grammatical error when you are writing in the passive voice. Keep in mind that it is a stylistic method that pertains to clarity. Depending on the use, the passive voice can lead to preventing the reader in understanding the message that you are conveying.

Myth No. 2: Using “to be” automatically makes the statement in the passive voice.

This is a common misconception about the passive voice in writing. The use of “to be” can make your statement ambiguous but it does not necessarily turn it into the passive voice.                                                                                             

Myth No. 3: When using first person pronouns like “I” and “we,” the statement is not in the passive voice.

When using a first person pronoun, you can easily turn a statement into a passive voice form. Take this sentence as an example: “I was taken by the monster.”

So what the passive voice?

The passive voice in writing occurs when you turn the object of the action into the subject of the sentence. This is applicable as long as whoever or whatever that is performing the action is not the grammatical subject of the sentence. Take a look at this sample sentence:


“Why was the treasure missed by the thief?”


Who is taking the course of action in this sentence? The thief is the one taking the course of action in the sentence. The thief is not in the usual position of the subject and not the grammatical subject. The treasure was the grammatical subject in this case.


As long as you know what to look for, the use of passive voice in writing is easy to detect. Search for a form of “to be” such as is, are and am that are followed by a past participle. This formula sums up this idea: a form of “to be” + past participle = passive voice.


How do I revise my sentences in passive voice?

What you need to do first if you want to revise your passive voice statements is to evaluate your work. Check if the passive voice is really inappropriate. If it is not, leave it be. If it really matters who or what the subject is, then revise your work. If you really want to emphasize the object, feel free to use the passive voice.

If you really want to know how to fix passive voice sentences and convert them into active voice ones, all you need to do is to make the subject and the the one doing the action into one. Here are some examples so you can see how to do it:


Passive: The girls were visited by their parents.

Active: The parents visited their girls.


Passive: Gabriel was thrown into the pit by the agent.

Active: The agent threw Gabriel into the pit.