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Grammatical Voice in English

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Grammatical Voice in English

Grammatical voice is loosely defined as the grammaticalized expression of relationships between predicate and nominal functions such as subject and object. The English language has two grammatical voices:

  • Active voice
  • Passive voice

Active Voice

The first grammatical voice in the English language is the active voice. The active voice allows speakers to form sentences in which the grammatical subject performs the action of or acts upon the verb functioning as the predicate. For example, the following sentences are examples of the active voice in English:

  • The dog ate the bone.
  • An excerpt from the website states that heredity on both sides of the family is relevant.
  • The school gave me four free baseball tickets.
  • Charlie has taken on additional responsibilities.
  • The hostess ordered square bowls for the party.
  • President Obama was giving the speech for the graduation ceremony.
  • The Italian man had given compliments for my work.
  • My husband bought me a dozen roses.

The active voice appears in conjunction with both English verb tenses (present and past), all four English verb aspects (simple, perfect, progressive, and perfect-progressive), and two of the three English verb moods (indicative and subjunctive).

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Passive Voice

The second grammatical voice in the English language is the passive voice. The passive voice allows speakers to form sentences in which a direct or indirect object moves into the subject position. For example, the following sentences are examples of the passive voice in English:

  • The bone was eaten by the dog.
  • That heredity on both sides of the family is relevant is stated in an excerpt from the website.
  • I was given four free baseball tickets by the school.
  • Additional responsibilities have been taken on by Charlie.
  • Square bowls were ordered by the hostess for the party.
  • The speech for the graduation ceremony was being given by President Obama.
  • Compliments had been given for my work by the Italian man.
  • I was bought a dozen roses by my husband.

The passive voice also appears in conjunction with both English verb tenses (present and past), all four English verb aspects (simple, perfect, progressive, and perfect-progressive), and two of the three English verb moods (indicative and subjunctive).

Verb voice expresses relationships between predicate and nominal functions. Both native speakers and English language learners must learn the two grammatical voices in English—active and passive—in order to communicate effectively and fully in the English language.

Summary

Grammatical voice is loosely defined as the grammaticalized expression of relationships between predicate and nominal functions such as subject and object.

In the English language, verbs express grammatical voice.

The two voices in English are the active voice and passive voice.

References

Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Written by Heather Johnson

Heather is a writer, librarian, linguist, wife, and mother who loves her husband, children, dogs, and cat. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in creative writing and master's degrees in library and information science and English studies with a concentration in linguistics.

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