A Video Explanation of Active and Passive Voice

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I’m on the road traveling, so I decided to repost something from a couple years ago. I’m not sure why, but it’s been my most-watched video on YouTube, with over 16,000 views last I checked.

Active and passive voice are mentioned often by writing teachers, but I’ve found that there is lots of confusion about what exactly these terms mean. Even experienced English teachers get it wrong sometimes. Watch this video and see if I can’t help clarify the issue for you.

In case you are wondering, I am planning on getting back into the habit of doing these videos. I’ve learned a thing or two since I made this one and I think I can make them shorter and more engaging. Anyway, look for those coming soon.

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Your comments, suggestions, and questions are welcome! Leave them below.

About the Author

Brian Wasko

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of WriteAtHome.com. One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Mary Brueggemann
    Mary Brueggemann03-31-2013

    I should have been more clear. 🙂 I mean that food is the retained object.

  2. Rhonda Barfield
    Rhonda Barfield03-28-2013

    I just finished writing an article and in looking it over, wondered if I’d included too many “be” verbs. Your video answered the question. 🙂 Thanks!

  3. CFloyd
    CFloyd03-27-2013

    That is great! Can I ask you about direct objects in passive voice sentences? What do you do with “food” in this sentence:

    The sea anemone is fed food by the ocean.

    I was so confidently trying to explain passive voice by giving this “passive” picture, how an anemone does NOTHING just has it’s little tentacle things waving in the water waiting for bits of food supplied by the ocean, and I wrote myself into a corner trying to parse and diagram this sucker!! How would you parse this? What is food? It IS the thing being fed – so that seems to be some sort of object, but it’s the ocean doing the feeding and not the anemone? Grrr… help?

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko03-27-2013

      I’m waiting for a tour bus at the moment, so this is just a quick top of my head reply, but food looks like the direct object of the verb. Anemone is the passive subject, so it can’t be an object, but if you switched the sentence to active voice: “the ocean fed the sea anemone food” you see that sea anemone is the indirect object and food is the direct object.

    • Mary Brueggemann
      Mary Brueggemann03-31-2013

      HI! If I remember correctly from my grammar, I think you call this a retained object. It’s basically another name for a direct object in the passive voice. You would diagram it just like a direct object.

      • Brian Wasko
        Brian Wasko04-01-2013

        Well done, Mary. I had to look up retained object to be sure, but that’s exactly the term. 🙂

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