Recognizing Passive Voice

Passive voice occurs when the performer of the action is NOT the subject of the clause (remember that whether dependent or independent, a clause must have a subject and verb combination). 


John was robbed. 
John was robbed by a hoodlum.
In the first case, John did not do the robbing; yet, "John" is the subject of the clause. 

In the 2nd ex. you see the obvious: that a "hoodlum" performed the action of robbing John. 

As you can see in those two ex.'s, sometimes you may not see the performer of the action, and sometimes you will. When you DO see the performer of the action, it will likely be as an object of the preposition "by." 

Something else is far more obvious about identifying passive voice construction: the presence of a being verb + the past participle form of a verb. 

was robbed, is created, will be manipulated, is explained, is shown, <== note that "show" is an irregular verb) etc. 

So watch out, especially for being verbs, to avoid unneccsary use of the passive voice. Passive voice does not exist with a to be verb + the present participle (that's a verb + -ing): 

passive voice uses just the past participle. 
A good basic formula to remember is this: 
be + -ed. 

When you realize you're using passive voice, just create a subject with an appropriate action verb, and voila! You've got active voice, which in most liberal arts expository writing creates far more vibrancy and energy. 

To create active voice, make the performer of the action the subject of the clause.

In short: passive voice uses a "to be" form + "-ed" in a clause wherein the subject is not the performer of the action.

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