Grammatical voice

related topics
{language, word, form}
{math, number, function}
{build, building, house}
{theory, work, human}
{food, make, wine}
{disease, patient, cell}
{film, series, show}
{law, state, case}
{son, year, death}

In grammar, the voice (also called diathesis) of a verb describes the relationship between the action (or state) that the verb expresses and the participants identified by its arguments (subject, object, etc.). When the subject is the agent or doer of the action, the verb is in the active voice. When the subject is the patient, target or undergoer of the action, it is said to be in the passive voice.

For example, in the sentence:

the verb "ate" is in the active voice, but in the sentence:

the verbal phrase "was eaten" is passive.


the verb "killed" is in the active voice, and the doer of the action is the "hunter". To make this passive:

the verbal phrase "was killed" is followed by the word "by" and then by the doer "hunter".

In a transformation from an active-voice clause to an equivalent passive-voice construction, the subject and the direct object switch grammatical roles. The direct object gets promoted to subject, and the subject demoted to an (optional) complement. In the examples above, the mouse serves as the direct object in the active-voice version, but becomes the subject in the passive version. The subject of the active-voice version, the cat, becomes part of a prepositional phrase in the passive version of the sentence, and could be left out entirely.



The active voice is the most commonly used in many languages and represents the "normal" case in which the subject of the verb is the agent. An easy way to find out if a verb is active, is to ask the question: "who or what is being ______" fill in the blank with the verb in the sentence. Do not change any words in this helper though because it will get you the wrong answer if you change anything.

Full article ▸

related documents
Grammatical tense
Akkadian language
Cyrillic alphabet
French grammar
SAMPA chart
Wolof language
Slavic languages
Hebrew alphabet
Goidelic languages
Niger-Congo languages
Old Church Slavonic
Finno-Ugric languages
Sign language
Brythonic languages
NATO phonetic alphabet
Written Chinese
Indo-European languages
Thai language
Persian language
Dari (Eastern Persian)
Dative case
Attic Greek
Chinese numerals