Your writing should always be as specific and clear as possible. When you use passive
voice, you either omit the person or thing (the subject) responsible for the action or put
she/he/it at the end of the sentence. For this reason, you should avoid passive sentence
Passive: “Born This Way” was written to empower women and the LGBTQ
“Born This Way” was written by Lady Gaga to empower women and the
Active: Lady Gaga wrote “Born This Way” to empower women and the LGBTQ
To identify passive voice:
The simplest way to identify and fix passive voice is to look at the verb and
ask “by whom” or “by what”? The answer will be the subject, and it should be
moved or added to the beginning of the sentence (to the left of your verb).
Look for “to be” verbs + a past participle (e.g. The dog was walked.)
Look for “will be” + a past participle (e.g. The dog will be walked.)
Look for “to be” verbs + “being” + a past participle (e.g. The dog was being
Look for “has”/“have”/“had” + “been” + a past participle (e.g. The dog has
“To be” Verbs Common Past Participle Endings
“am,” “is,” “are,” “was,” “were,” “be,” “-ed,” “-d,” “-en,” “-n,” or “-t”
Change the instances of passive voice below to active voice.
1) The metropolis has been scorched by the dragon’s fiery breath.
2) When her house was invaded, Penelope had to think of ways to delay her remarriage.
3) It is argued that dogs are more faithful pets than cats.
4) Marketing links were being established.
5) The working class was marginalized.
6) You are fired.
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7) Women were not treated as equals.
8) The troops have been withdrawn.
9) A number of things are indicated by these results.
10) Heart disease is considered the leading cause of death in the United States.
11) Mistakes were made.
12) Gender training was conducted in six villages, thus affecting social relationships.
13) African Americans were discriminated against.
14) The ball was hit by the boy.
15) We were asked to move away from the building by the firefighters.
16) The interview was reported in the newspaper.
17) It was announced by the president that the interest rate would be cut.
18) Class times were changed in the fall of 2011.
19) Cuts were made to improve Exxon’s stock values.
20) The performance was conducted by the great Gustav Mahler.
(Note: Other answers are possible.)
1) The dragon’s fiery breath scorched the metropolis.
2) When the suitors invaded her house, Penelope had to think of ways to delay her remarriage.
3) Dog lovers argue that dogs are more faithful pets than cats.
4) The manager established marketing links.
5) The economic recession marginalized the working class.
6) Your boss fired you.
7) Men did not treat women as equals.
8) Obama withdrew the troops.
9) The results indicate a number of things.
10) Doctors consider heart disease to be the leading cause of death in the United States.
11) The pharmacist made mistakes.
12) Scientists conducted gender training in six villages, thus affecting social relationships.
13) Whites discriminated against African Americans.
14) The boy hit the ball.
15) The firefighters asked us to move away from the building.
16) The newspaper reported the interview.
17) The president announced that the interest rate would be cut.
18) The university changed class times in the fall of 2012.
19) Exxon made cuts to improve stock values.
20) The great Gustav Mahler conducted the performance.
The Texas State University Writing Center adapted the practice questions above from the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center website: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/passivevoice.html.