Passive voice is used in writing when you want to emphasize the object of a sentence, while active voice is used when you want to emphasize the subject of a sentence. Knowing the difference between these 2 voices is vital for students and writers to understand. To teach active and passive voice, make sure to identify the subject and verb in a sentence, explain the difference between active and passive voice, and rearrange sentences from passive to active using the same verb tense.
In grammar, the voice of a verb describes the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object, etc.). When the subject is the agent or doer of the action, the verb is in the active voice. When the subject is the patient, target or undergoer of the action, the verb is said to be in the passive voice. When the subject both performs and receives the action expressed by the verb, the verb is in the middle voice. Voice is sometimes called diathesis.
The following pair of examples illustrates the contrast between active and passive voice in English. In sentence (1), the verb form ate is in the active voice, but in sentence (2), the verb form was eaten is in the passive voice. Independent of voice, the cat is the Agent (the doer) of the action of eating in both sentences.
In a transformation from an active-voice clause to an equivalent passive-voice construction, the subject and the direct object switch grammatical roles. The direct object gets promoted to subject, and the subject demoted to an (optional) adjunct. In the first example above, the mouse serves as the direct object in the active-voice version, but becomes the subject in the passive version. The subject of the active-voice version, the cat, becomes part of a prepositional phrase in the passive version of the sentence, and can be left out entirely; The mouse was eaten.
The active voice is the most commonly used in many languages and represents the "normal" case, in which the subject of the verb is the agent. In the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action or causes the happening denoted by the verb. Sentence (1) is in active voice, as indicated by the verb form saw.
The passive voice is employed in a clause whose subject expresses the theme or patient of the verb. That is, it undergoes an action or has its state changed. In the passive voice, the grammatical subject of the verb is the recipient (not the doer) of the action denoted by the verb. In English it serves a variety of functions including focusing on the object, demoting the subject and handling situations where the speaker either wants to suppress information about who the doer of the action is, or in reality does not know their identity, or when the doer is either unimportant or likely to be common knowledge. There are syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic motivations for choosing the passive voice instead of the active. Some languages, such as English and Spanish, use a periphrastic passive voice; that is, it is not a single word form, but rather a construction making use of other word forms. Specifically, it is made up of a form of the auxiliary verb to be and a past participle of the main verb which carries the lexical content of the predicate. In other languages, such as Latin, the passive voice for some tenses is simply marked on the verb by inflection: librum legit "He reads the book"; liber legitur "The book is read".
Some languages (such as Albanian, Bengali, Fula, Tamil, Sanskrit, Icelandic, Swedish and Ancient Greek) have a middle voice, which is a set of inflections or constructions which is to some extent different from both the active and passive voices.
The subject of such middle voice is like the subject of active voice as well as the subject of passive voice, in that it performs an action, and is also affected by that action. Another difference between middle voice and the other two grammatical voices is that there are middle marked verbs for which no corresponding active verb form exists. In some cases, the middle voice is any grammatical option where the subject of a material process cannot be categorized as either an actor (someone doing something) or a goal (that at which the actor aims their work). For example, while the passive voice expresses a medium (goal) being affected by an external agent (actor) as in sentence (4), the middle voice expresses a medium undergoing change without any external agent as in sentence (5). In English, though the inflection for middle voice and active voice are the same for these cases, they differ in whether or not they permit the expression of the Agent argument in an oblique by-phrase PP: thus while the by-phrase is possible with passive voice as in sentence (6), it is not possible with middle voice, as shown by the ill-formed sentence (7).
In Classical Greek, the middle voice is often used for material processes where the subject is both the actor (the one doing the action) and the medium (that which is undergoing change) as in "the man got a shave", opposing both active and passive voices where the medium is the goal as in "The barber shaved the man" and "The man got shaved by the barber". Finally, it can occasionally be used in a causative sense, such as "The father causes his son to be set free", or "The father ransoms his son".
Topic-prominent languages like Mandarin tend not to employ the passive voice as frequently. In general, Mandarin used to be best analyzed using middle voice, but Mandarin-speakers can construct a passive voice by using the coverb 被 (bèi) and rearranging the usual word order. For example, this sentence using active voice:
In addition, through the addition of the auxiliary verb "to be" 是 (shì) the passive voice is frequently used to emphasize the identity of the actor. This example places emphasis on the dog, presumably as opposed to some other animal:
Recently, more syntacticians investigated passive voice in Mandarin. They discovered that passive voice in Mandarin is heavily dependent on the context of the sentence rather than the grammatical forms.Therefore, passive voice can be marked (e.g. by the most broadly used passive marker: Bei 被 [mentioned above]) or unmarked (see the "Notional Passive" section below) in both speech and writing. Those sentences have a passive marker called the long passive, while the ones that do not require a passive marker are called short passive.
No formal passive marker is present, but the passive voice is introduced by a verb that indicates the subject as the receiver of the action, then the verb is followed by an object. The literary meaning is quite similar to English inverted sentences. It is usually a formal tone. Common indicators are a set of verbs, like dedao得到, shoudao受到, zaodao遭到 (the three most common verbs used in lexical passive), etc.
However, Li et al. (1981), when arguing against Chao's analysis of Mandarin, stated that there is a distinct class of middle voice verbs. They recognize that Mandarin (and Cantonese) verbs as a whole behave the same way. Later, Li et al. (1981) introduced middle voice sentences as examples of topic/comment constructions which lacks an overt subject.
While Ting (2006) compared between middles and Ba constructions (= active voice) involving intransitive V-de (得) resultatives. He also did comparison between middles and inchoatives. He argues that we can treat notional passives in Mandarin as middle constructions. Its underlying grammatical subject position and lack of a syntactically active logical subject are best explained by a presyntactic approach. But, semantically, Chinese middle voice may be interpreted like stative or verbal passives.
Ting argues that sentence a) is ungrammatical and indistinguishable from ergatives, and that sentence b) is grammatical and he believes that it must have used middle voice due to their function of defocusing an agent subject. Although Bei construction in passive voice can achieve the same purpose, there is a possibility that associating with Bei construction may be inappropriate in many contexts. Thus, using middle voice is better in this case.
In the actor-emphasizing passive voice of Cantonese, besides the addition of the auxiliary verb "to be" 係 (hai6), the perfective event is also converted to an adjective-like predicative with the suffix 嘅 (ge3) or 㗎 (gaa3), which is a more emphasized one from the liaison of 嘅 (ge3) and 啊 (aa3):
Although a topic-prominent language, Japanese employs the passive voice quite frequently, and has two types of passive voice, direct voice which corresponds to that in English and an indirect passive which is not found in English. The passive voice in Japanese is constructed with the verb stem followed by the passive morpheme -(r)are. This synthetic passive morpheme can attach to transitive, ditransitive and some intransitive verbs. The word order in Japanese is more flexible so passive sentences can be both SOV (subject + object + verb) and OSV (object + subject + verb) order; however, SOV is typically used more often. Furthermore, there are two theories about passive voice in Japanese called the uniform and non-uniform theory. These two theories debate whether direct and indirect passives should be treated equally or if they should be treated differently.
Indirect passives have two varieties, possessive passives and gapless passives. In possessive passives, the grammatical subject stands in a canonical possessive relation with the direct object and in gapless passives they appear to lack an active counterpart and contain an extra argument is realized as the grammatical subject that is unlicensed by the main verb. Indirect passives can also be used when something undesirable happens to the speaker. 2b1af7f3a8