Making Passive Sentences ActiveThis handout is available for download in DOCX format and PDF format.
Directions: Rewrite each of these sentences in the active voice.
Teaching students to write in the active voice will significantly strengthen their essays because sentences written in the active voice often have much more impact than those written in the passive voice. In fact, I think that it’s the single most important thing you can teach students about style.
I begin by asking what an active verb is (a verb that conveys an action). I then go around the class and have each student name an active verb. I follow up by asking what a passive verb is (any verb that is acted upon)—you can identify passive verbs because they are paired with a form of the verb “to be” (i.e., am, is, are, was, were, has, have, had, etc…).
As an example of the passive voice I offer the following sentence: “The dog was hit by a car.” I then ask students to make it active: “A car hit the dog.” It is usually clear that the second sentence has more impact than the first.
Finally, I put students in pairs and have them make the passive sentences on the next page active. It typically takes about five minutes. I then go around the room and review the sentences.
It is especially effective to do this lesson on the same day that you hold a peer review session because following the exercise you can ask students to find a passive sentence in their essay and change it to active.