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Run-On Sentences

Run-on sentences occur when writers try to combine more than one idea into a single sentence. They cause confusion because readers are not sure when one idea ends and the next one begins. Read our entry and test your knowledge with our quiz!

Active and Passive Voice

Active and Passive Voice are terms for two types of sentence construction. The Active Voice combines the subject of the sentence with a normally conjugated verb. The Passive Voice combines a form of the verb to be with a past participle (in most verb forms, this is a verb ending with -ed, but see our examples below for some special cases). In most cases, Active Voice will be your first choice. 

Use Active Voice when the subject performs the action of the verb in a sentence.

Example: Ted ate the pizza.

Passive Voice switches the positions of the subject and direct object; the above sentence would change to

Example: The pizza was eaten by Ted.

You can usually identify a passive verb by looking for words like "was" or "by": was eaten by, was announced by, etc. Instead of an action, the verb describes the object’s condition. 

Here are some additional examples of both passive and active voices:

Passive: Surprisingly, the Oscar-winning film was directed by a first-time director.

Active: Surprisingly, a first-time director directed the Oscar-winning film.

Passive: The seemingly dangerous wolf was raised by humans as a cub.

Active: Humans raised the seemingly dangerous wolf as a cub.

Passive: Jenny would have gone to the dance with me, but she was already asked out by Xavier.

Active: Jenny would have gone to the dance with me, but Xavier already asked her out.

Passive Voice often makes things more confusing: it hides who is performing an action, it takes up more words, and it changes the normal word order of a sentence. It is generally better to use active voice. Active Voice takes up fewer words, is more direct, and clearly identifies the source of each action. Passive voice can be helpful, however, if you’re using a sentence that doesn’t rely on a specific actor/person:

 Example: The lottery winners will be announced next Tuesday.

In this example sentence, the announcer of the lottery winners is not important. Instead, we can devote our attention to the lottery winners themselves. Passive voice is also useful for describing the results of a scientific experiment.