The active voice in English
Verbs within a sentence or question can either be active or passive in English. All verbal forms such as the present simple, present perfect tenses etc. as well as all verbs in English will function both in the active voice and the passive voice. In this lesson, we will take a look at active verb forms in English.
- Present simple
- Present continuous
- Present perfect continuous
- Present perfect
- Past continuous
- Past perfect continuous
- Past simple
- Past perfect
- Future simple
- Future continuous
- Future perfect
- Future perfect continuous
What is the active voice?
The active voice is used in the majority of English sentences and questions. It’s simply when the subject and agent of the sentence coincide and the subject (also the agent) performs the action.
- Jennifer will see us tomorrow.
This is a future simple tense and the subject and agent of the sentence is “Jennifer”. Jennifer is performing the action of “see us tomorrow”.
In the passive, the above sentence would be as follows
- We will be seen by Jennifer tomorrow.
In this passive sentence, the subject is “we” and the agent (the thing or person that performs the action) is “Jennifer”.
As you can see, the subject and agent do not coincide, that is, the subject is “we” and the agent is “Jennifer”.
Moreover, in the passive voice, “we will be seen by Jennifer tomorrow”, the action is being done to the subject “we” rather than the subject performing the action.
Can I always use active verb forms?
In short, no, not always. Certain contexts and situations will demand a passive verbal structure or an active verbal structure, nevertheless, for the majority of the time, the active voice will be sufficient because most sentences and questions are active.
That is, the subject and agent perform the action of the sentence or question.
- Jake sees me every day.
“Jake” is both the subject and the agent of the above sentence. (The agent is the thing or person that performs the action and not necessarily the subject).
How do I learn active verb forms?
All verbal tenses, such as the present simple, past perfect etc., have their own constructions (see above) both in the active and passive voices.
So, you need only to learn said constructions. I.e., the present perfect = have/has + past participle (I have worked today).
- I can see you tomorrow. = active voice.
- Jake will know by tomorrow. = active voice.