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Verbs: Voice and Mood


This handout will explain the difference between active and passive voice in writing. It gives examples of both, and shows how to turn a passive sentence into an active one. Also, it explains how to decide when to choose passive voice instead of active.

Contributors: April Toadvine, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2010-10-14 03:32:21

Active and Passive Voice

Verbs in the active voice show the subject acting. Verbs in the passive voice show something else acting on the subject. Most writers consider the active voice more forceful and tend to stay away from passives unless they really need them.

ACTIVE: Tim killed the chicken hawk.

PASSIVE: The chicken hawk was killed by Tim.

Check out our handout on active and passive verbs.

Indicative, Imperative, and Subjunctive Mood

Most verbs we use are in the indicative mood, which indicates a fact or opinion:


Some verbs are in the imperative mood, which expresses commands or requests. Though it is not stated, the understood subject of imperative sentences is you.


When verbs show something contrary to fact, they are in the subjunctive mood.

When you express a wish or something that is not actually true, use the past tense or past perfect tense; when using the verb 'to be' in the subjunctive, always use were rather than was:



INDICATIVE: I need some help.


SUBJUNCTIVE: If I were smart, I'd call for help.

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