Use of active and passive verbs

To use passive voice or not to use them

In general, sentences are either active or passive. In active sentences, the agent responsible for the action comes first in the sentence. In passive sentences, the person or thing acted upon (object) is mentioned first, and the actor is added to the end of the sentence using “by”.

The passive form of the verb is flagged by a form of “to be” verb.  Passive sentences mostly sound wordy and indirect. Moreover, they cause confusion in the sentence. Therefore, these kinds of sentences should be weeded out from academic writing. To have a quality writing, it is best that you go through your writing at the end of the writing process and hunt for these types of sentences. To spot these sentence forms, you can use the help of an expert proofreader.

Here are some tips on how to improve the quality of your writing through converting passive sentences to active ones. “A”s are examples of passive voice, and “B”s are their active form.

Avoid ending sentences with passive verbs

  •  For good writing, this is the kiss of death. Replace them with active voice. In Methods, passives can go in the middle of the sentence:

A. To X, Y was added                   B. Y was added to X.

Change some passive verbs into adjectives

A. X could be seen.                                B. X was evident/apparent/visible.

A. X was always used.                          B. X always proved useful.

Change the verb itself

A. Patients were operated on.                 B. Patients underwent a surgery.

A. Sixty cases were used as controls.     B. Sixty cases served as controls.

A. Each participant was given X.           B. Each participant received X.

Omit useless passive constructions

A. It has been found that X causes Y (Aho, 2001).       B. Aho (2001) found that X causes Y (Aho 2001).

A. We found that Y was produced by X.      B. Y results from X.  OR,  X leads to Y.




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