Lesson Twenty-five

from passive to active voice

This sentence is in the passive voice:

The students are helped by the teacher.

It sounds better when it changes to the active voice:

The teacher helps the students.

Why is the active voice preferred over the passive voice?

English teachers regularly advise their students to change a written sentence from the passive voice to the active voice. The reason is that the active voice is more direct. The active voice clearly indicates who or what is performing an action. The passive voice does not always show who or what did something, and sometimes the passive voice is kind of awkward. However, the passive voice, in some situations is unavoidable, or it’s a better choice over the active voice. Whatever the case may be, you must learn to convert the passive voice to the active voice, and vice versa.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how to convert the passive voice to the active voice. This is a good way of improving your writing and clearing up mistakes that you might be making in your writing and speaking.

Here are some examples:

passive voice:

1. The floor is swept by the custodian.


active voice:

2. The custodian sweeps the floor.


In the first sentence, the verb "be" (is) indicates the verb tense. When changing the main verb to the active voice, do two things:

  • Maintain the same verb tense. In this case, the main verb, "sweep" becomes "sweeps." Both sentences are in the present tense.
  • Observe proper subject-verb agreement. The subject, "custodian" is singular so the main verb should be singular.

Let’s look at the next example.

passive voice:

1. The customers are being served by the waitress.


active voice:

2. The waitress is serving the customers.


Both of these sentences are in the present continuous tense. This is indicated by the verb "be" (are being / is). When changing the main verb, "serve," to the active voice, two things happen:

  • The verb "be" becomes singular (is) because the subject (waitress) is singular. Remember, the subject and the verb have to agree.
  • The main verb in the second sentence changes to ‘serving" because it’s in the present continuous tense.

Now let’s practice.


passive voice:

1. The criminals were arrested by the police officer.

police officer

active voice:

2. The police officer ________________.

police officer

How did you change the sentence?

Write your answers by hand.  write by hand 

Directions: Change each sentence from the passive voice to the active voice. (Answers are below.)

1. The baby was fed by the mother.

The mother _______________________________.

2. The products are packaged by a machine.

A machine ________________________________.

3. All the pop was drunk by the kids.

The kids __________________________________.

4. The patient is being examined by the doctor.

The doctor ________________________________.

5. The homework has been completed by the students.

The students ______________________________.


Next: Lesson Twenty-six


 (Answers: Practice: The police officer arrested the criminals.

1. The mother fed the baby; 2. A machine packages the products;

3. The kids drank all the pop; 4. The doctor is examining the patient;

5. The students have completed the homework.)