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San Jos State University Writing Center http www sjsu edu writingcenter Written by Misty Moon How to Recognize and Eliminate Passive Voice In active voice the subject is doing the action a The cat ate the food b Sally recommended that the student attend the workshop c Misty closed the door In passive voice the subject is acted upon a The food was eaten by the cat b The student was recommended by Sally to attend the workshop c The door was closed by Misty Compare Sally recommended that the student attend the workshop with The student was recommended by Sally to attend the workshop The sentence written in passive voice is wordy vague and ineffective Use the following three tests to determine if a sentence is written in passive voice Use the sentence The door was closed by Misty as an example 1 The subject is not the doer it is being acted upon In the example the subject door is being acted upon by the doer Misty 2 A form of be am is are was were appears with a past participle 1 In the example was is used with the past participle closed 3 The phrase by someone or something either appears in the sentence or it can be added In the example the by a doer phrase is by Misty Eliminate passive voice by making the subject do the action You can shift the focus of the sentence from the direct or indirect object to the actor For example you can transform the following sentence from passive to active voice Passive The tree was cut down by the man Active The man cut down the tree However sometimes passive voice is preferable When the person or the object being acted upon is more important than the doer you should use passive voice Example President Kennedy was shot today Since the President is more important than the doer in the above sentence you want to focus on the President You can also use passive voice to avoid the personal I in formal or scientific writing Example The experiment was conducted on six varieties of corn 1 Past participle is used with have has or had to form the



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