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Test PrepACTEnglishPassive Voice

ACT English Skill Review: Passive Voice

Although passive voice isn’t grammatically incorrect, it’s often stylistically unpleasant. Therefore, you can expect to encounter it on the ACT English. Of course, it’s also important to avoid it in your own writing.

Passive voice consists of a to be verb (is, be, am, are, was, were, been, being) and a past participle (such as stolen, pushed, or enjoyed). The subject of the passive voice verb is receiving the action rather than doing the action. For example:

The play was enjoyed by the audience.

Although play is the subject, the object of the preposition (audience) is actually doing the enjoying. The sentence would sound much better if it were active: The audience enjoyed the play. Not all past participles indicate passive voice, however. For example:

I have listened to that CD all day long.

The above example is not in passive voice. Although there are some cases in which passive voice is acceptable, use active voice whenever possible.

Example

Try this practice question:
  1. The letter is written by Sir Andrew and Sir Toby as a trick to make a fool of Malvolio.

    1. The letter is written by Sir Andrew and Sir Toby
    2. Sir Andrew and Sir Toby write the letter
    3. The letter having been written by Sir Andrew and Sir Toby
    4. Sir Andrew and Sir Toby are the authors of the letter used

Answer and Explanation

  1. The correct answer is B. Choice B is best, because the subjects (Sir Andrew and Sir Toby) do the action (write). In other words, the sentence is in active voice rather than passive voice. While D is also active voice, it’s wordy. Remember, you want to identify the best option, so avoid wordiness if you can. Indeed, this bit of advice can be used as a guide when narrowing down your remaining choices; just select the least wordy (shortest) of the options left!


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