Education :: Active vs. Passive Voice

Alexa was running down the road.

Alexa ran down the road.

Now read those sentences again and ask yourself: which one seems like there should be more?

Usually, when we use passive voice, it lends itself to a finite statement. “Alexa was running down the road.” Yes, it’s an ‘action’ sentence as she is running, but it’s a passive thought. The passive voice doesn’t engage the audience in the same way as active voice.

When you use the active voice, “Alexa ran down the road,” the reader is engaged and already wondering what happens next.

The rule of thumb I follow is: if it’s an action sentence, don’t use “was (action)ing” or “is (action)ing.”

Of course, there are exceptions to this rule and a writer may want to use passive voice from time to time, but this is the rule I follow.

I’m attaching a worksheet to this post that you can use when teaching this concept.

My suggestion: teach what an action sentence is and is not before teaching active vs. passive voice. Depending on your students’ age, it’s probably a good idea to teach ‘verb’, not just ‘action’. It’s important for our students to learn the proper terms for grammar.

You might be thinking, “Well, duh! We already did that a while ago.” Review! It’s your best friend.

Though the rules become much more complex as sentence structures progress, this is the starting point for active versus passive voice.

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