The voice used in an essay and any other writing determines how clear its intent would be.
The English language contains two voices, which are Active and Passive. Any of these two can be found in an essay either alone or together in the same paragraph.
ACTIVE is the inverse of passive voice since the performer of an action is the Subject. In contrast to this, the recipient of work is the Subject in a passive statement.
Tola is being received by David right now
David is currently accepting tola – Active
Notice the changes in “Right now” to “currently” and rearrangement of the subject-verb-object sequence.
Cynthia is taking an exam
Cynthia is taking an exam – Active
If you carefully examine the two examples above, each has the word ‘by.’ Whenever you see a statement with this word, then it’s likely to be passive, not active.
Components of Active Voice
Two primary elements are making up an Active voice. They include the Sequence and the Verb.
A sequence of Active voice refers to the arrangement of the Subject, Verb, and the Object. In the context of position, the subject precedes the verb, while the verb precedes the object.
Subject -> Verb -> Object
Any other arrangement apart from this renders a sentence passive.
SUBJECT is otherwise known as the sentence focus and the performer of a stated action. The action performed is expressed through the use of an active verb.
Example 3: Tade killed the dog
Note that the Subject in this sentence is Tade.
These are words used to denote an action, making up the major part of a sentence predicate.
Examples: Go, eat, run, sleep, kill, blow, pray
However, certain prohibited verbs can turn a powerful statement into a passive one. They include to-be verbs and helping-verbs such as have done, do, has, had, and got.
They are classified as:
- Auxiliary verbs or helping verbs
- Some modal verbs and other vague verbs
Sola will sing tomorrow – Active
Sola will be singing tomorrow – not active
He left a note behind – Active
He had left a note behind – not active
The security guard killed a snake – Active
A snake was killed by the security guard – not active
In all the above cases, the verbs directly linked to the performer and the latter is recognized as the Subject.
The object is always next in line with the principal/active verb. It is also known as the recipient of an action performed by the Subject.
Example 7: Tade killed the dog
In the above statement, the object is the dog.
Use of Action Verbs
Avoiding the usage of certain verbs isn’t all there is to achieving an Active voice. There needs to be the implementation of powerful action verbs.
They can be used as a replacement for the helping-verbs. Examples include the following;
The bacterial colony does well in poor this habitat
Bacterial colony thrives in this poor habitat – Active
I told the passerby about my business
I promoted my business to the passerby – Active
Example 8 and 9 both had the replacement of verbs. While the previous ones allow a clause to be formed, the newly introduced action verbs give a clear distinction of what the statement implies.
It is more self-explanatory to say a business is promoted than being told.
Guidelines for Active Voice
- Follow the sequence – Subject before Verb and Verb before Object.
- Eliminate helping Verbs – All helping verbs such as will, would, can and could should be eliminated if possible
- Avoid using To-be Verbs
- Presence of the ‘by’ word increases chances of a statement being passive
- Use strong action verbs instead of helping verbs
- Your statement must emphasis the performer of action as the Subject
Comparison between Active and Passive Voice
It is almost impossible to talk about an Active voice without mentioning the other. As stated in the introduction, the Passive voice switches the position of the Subject and the Object.
The Subject, in this case, becomes the recipient of action instead of being the performer.
Let’s have some examples to show the differences between an Active and a Passive voice.
The boy (object) was rescued (verb) by a flower goddess (Subject) – Passive
A flower goddess rescued the boy – Active
The most brilliant student – Passive won the prize
The most brilliant student won the award – Active
Merlin will be casting a powerful magic tomorrow – Passive
Merlin will cast a powerful spell tomorrow – Active
President Nuhari is being treated by Doctor Tayo – Passive
Doctor Tayo is treating President Nuhari – Active
Their last hope was destroyed by the Lion – Passive
The Lion destroyed their last hopes – Active
Note that in all the examples given, a passive statement was easily spotted either by the presence of ‘by’ or non-active verbs such as the to-be and helping Verbs.
Importance of Active Voice
l An active voice emphasizes the Subject more than the object.
Example 15: Tade killed the dog
This statement indicates Tade as the Subject and the performer of the action. The Subject is fully linked to his/her/ action.
The Subject can either be living or non-living.
Example 16: The fire burnt a dry patch of grassland.
The fire is non-living and a Subject in this sentence.
l Active voice helps create lively and much more engaging sentences.
l Statements with a strong sense of action are likely to garner more attention than others.
l Active voice favours less usage of words. Unlike passive voice that requires the use of more words, active voice supports word quality than quantity.
Active voice is widely recommended in all areas of English and other Iglo-European languages. The more important fact is that usage of active voice requires lesser words, compared to when using a Passive voice.
Nonetheless, claiming an active voice for your essays, articles, and other writings require exact familiarity with the guidelines involved.