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Grammar Lessons: Simple Basics of Active and Passive Voice

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Mastering the English language opens doors to endless opportunities, so let’s learn something new or improve your English grammar! Today, let’s explore one of the fundamental aspects of English grammar that confuses many beginners: the active and passive voice. Don’t worry; we’re making this journey as simple and as fun as a day at the beach! Understanding the active and passive voice is like holding the key to a secret garden. It adds depth to your communication, allowing you to navigate through the English language with more confidence and creativity.

What is Active Voice?

Imagine you’re at a busy market in Dubai. You see a vendor selling spices. In the active voice, the subject of the sentence performs the action. It’s direct and vibrant, like the colours and smells around you.
Example: “The vendor [subject] sells [verb] spices [object].”
Formula: subject [doer of action] +verb [action] +object [receiver of action]
In this sentence, ‘The vendor’ is the subject doing the action of selling. It’s straightforward, just like asking for a cup of coffee at your favourite café in Dubai.

What is Passive Voice?

Now, let’s flip the perspective! In the passive voice, the focus is on the action itself or the recipient of the action, not who is performing the action. It’s a bit more mysterious and indirect.
Example: Spices [object] are sold [verb] by the vendor [subject].
Formula: object [doer of action] +verb [action] +subject [receiver of action].
Here, ‘Spices’ becomes the focus, and the vendor takes a backseat in the sentence.

Why Use Active and Passive Voice?

The active voice is like walking directly to your destination—it’s clear, energetic, and usually preferred for its simplicity and clarity. It’s great for most types of communication, making your sentences sound confident and dynamic.
Passive voice, on the other hand, is like taking a scenic route. It’s useful when the action’s doer is unknown, unimportant, or you want to emphasise the action or the recipient. It’s often used in scientific or formal writing. For example, “A new coffee shop was opened in the neighbourhood.” Here, it’s the opening that’s exciting, not who opened the shop.

Converting Active to Passive Voice (and Vice Versa)

Let’s say you’re watching the waves at a beach in Dubai. Converting sentences between active and passive voice is like watching the waves come in and out. Here’s how you can ride the wave both ways:

From Active to Passive:

1. Identify the verb in the active sentence.
2. Find the doer of the action and the recipient.
3. Rearrange the sentence so the recipient of the action comes first.
4. Change the verb to a form of ‘be,’ followed by the past participle of the main verb.
5. Add ‘by’ before the doer of the action if it’s necessary to mention them.
Active: “The chef prepares a feast.”
Passive: “A feast is prepared by the chef.”

From Passive to Active:

Do the opposite. Move the doer of the action to the start, change the verb back to its simple form, and drop ‘by.’
Passive: “A feast is prepared by the chef.”
Active: “The chef prepares a feast.”

Practice Makes Perfect

Now, let’s practise with examples. Try converting these on your own for practice:

Active voice: Tourists visit the Burj Khalifa.

Click here to find out the passive voice!

Passive voice: The Burj Khalifa is visited by tourists.

Active voice: ES Dubai offers exceptional English courses.

Click here to find out the passive voice!

Passive voice: Exceptional English courses are offered by ES Dubai.

Passive voice: The lesson is explained by the teacher.

Click here to find out the passive voice!

Active voice: The teacher explains the lesson.

Passive voice: Homework was assigned by the teacher.

Click here to find out the passive voice!

Active voice: The teacher assigns homework.

1. Understand the context: Use active voice for clarity and directness and passive voice for emphasis or formality.
2. Keep it simple: Especially when you’re starting out, use an active voice to keep your sentences straightforward.
3. Practice: Convert sentences from books, songs, or even movie dialogues between active and passive to get the hang of it.

So, the next time you describe the mesmerising sunset over the Arabian Gulf or share stories of your adventures in finding the best English schools in Dubai, think about your chosen voice. Remember, every step throughout your English course in Dubai is a step towards new adventures, friendships, and opportunities. At ES Dubai, we’re here to guide you through each step, ensuring you enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

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