First of all, let’s start with a handy definition.
An active sentence is a sentence written in an active voice. In the active voice, the subject performs or carries out the action described by a verb. The object (the receiver of the action) comes after the move.
The active voice is the opposite of the passive voice, where the object of a sentence comes before the verb. In the passive voice, the main emphasis is on the thing having the action performed to it rather than on the move or subject.
Active Sentences in English Examples
Although we now know what the passive voice is and how it differs from the passive one, it’s easier to see the difference by looking at a few examples. Below, we’ve included a handy table where sentences are written in these different voices for comparison:
|The magician pulled a rabbit from the hat.
|The rabbit was pulled from the hat by the magician.
|Isaac threw a ball at the window.
|The ball was thrown at the window by Isaac.
|Helen played her recorder every day.
|The recorder is played by Helen every day.
As you can see in these active sentences in English, the subject acts on the object. So they’re the main force of action in the sentence.
On the other hand, in the sentences written in the passive voice, the action happens to the object by the subject. The object doesn’t do anything – things happen to it.
Primary Features of the Active Voice
The simplest way to describe active sentences is that they’re based on action and are written as ‘ A does B . ‘ They’re also typically shorter sentences that have a more direct impact on the reader. Because the action and the subject are the immediate focus of active sentences, they’re a helpful way to make writing more impactful, which is especially effective in fiction stories.
If we compare the features of the active voice to the passive voice, we can see that the passive voice is much more indirect. Placing the object as the most important part of the sentence emphasizes that it is not the thing performing the action that’s the main focus but the something that’s had the action done to it.
How do you write an Active Sentence?
When writing, it’s usually encouraged to write in a vibrant tone of voice rather than a passive one. But how do you do that?
A simple way to remember to write in the active voice (or to edit your work into the active voice retroactively) is to follow this simple method when constructing sentences:
- Subject → verb → object.
The subject comes first, then the verb, then the object. Let’s look at an example.
- Ana → ate → the apple.
‘Ana’ is the subject, ‘ate’ is the verb, and ‘the apple’ is the object. So it’s as easy as 1, 2, or 3!
Of course, these three steps can become more difficult to follow once you start writing more complex sentences. However, the basics are the same, no matter how many conjunctions you add to the ruling.
When is the active voice used in writing?
The active voice and passive voice have different uses in English. Usually, the passive voice is more formal, and the active agent is more direct.
In most writing, you would be encouraged to use the active voice. However, it’s not always the most appropriate choice for every situation.
Using the active or passive voice depends on your focus on the sentence. For example:
- He stole the money.
- The money was stolen.
In the first sentence, which uses the active voice, ‘he’ is the focus of the sentence – stealing is what’s important, rather than what ‘he’ stole. Using an active sentence in this way would be helpful if you’re trying to get straight to the point or place emphasis on the person that stole the money.
But in the second sentence, which uses the passive voice, money is the focus. So we’d typically use the passive voice if we want to write in a formal/ objective way or if the identity of the person who stole the money is unknown.
When deciding whether to use the active or passive voice, it’s essential to determine the focus of the sentence first.