Grammar aid 1: Active and Passive verbs (Oxford Dictionary explanation)

Active and passive verbs

Depending on the way in which you word a sentence, a verb can be either active or passive.

When the verb is active, the subject of the verb is doing the action, as in these examples:

France beat Brazil in the final.
[subject] [active verb]
More than 300 million people speak Spanish.
[subject] [active verb]
Jack will take the matter forward.
[subject] [active verb]

When the verb is passive, the subject undergoes the action rather than doing it:

Brazil was beaten by France in the final.
[subject] [passive verb]
Spanish is spoken by more than 300 million people worldwide.
[subject] [passive verb]
The matter will be taken forward by Jack.
[subject] [passive verb]

By changing from an active to a passive voice, the sentences’ points of view have changed. Brazil, Spanish, and the matter have become the subjects of the passive verbs were beaten, is spoken, and will be taken. In the passive examples, the former subjects of the active verbs (France, more than 300 million people; Jack) are now introduced with the word ‘by’

These active/passive different ways of using verbs are known as voices. In everyday writing, the active voice is more common. The passive tends to be used in formal documents, often where an action or situation is regarded as more significant than who or what did or caused it:

The results were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

A fair grading system was found to be important to all students.

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