33 Use the Active Voice

Why is it important to use the active voice?*

When writers use the active voice, their words are direct; they use concrete verbs and clearly state the action being performed by the subject. In contrast, the passive voice is indirect; writers may use weak “to be” verbs (is, am, was, were, being, been) or present progressives (e. g., is working, is laughing), and the actor in the sentence is absent or disguised.

How can passive writing be revised to make use of the active voice?

  • Find the subject of the sentence; the subject should be the one performing the action, not receiving the action.
  • Passive: He was questioned by me.
      • The subject of this sentence is he, and he is being questioned. He is not performing an action but is receiving the action.
      • This sentence can be revised to make the subject represent the person or thing that is performing the action.
    • Active: I questioned him.
      • The subject of the sentence is I, and is followed by a concrete action verb. The subject is doing the questioning instead of being questioned.
  • Check each sentence for passive voice; revise the sentence construction to make use of the active voice. This process is facilitated when “to be” verbs are eliminated and present progressives are replaced with action verbs when possible.

 For additional resources on active voice, see also:


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