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Active voice

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Title: Active voice  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Proto-Celtic language, Participle, Arabic verbs, Voice (grammar), Ancient Greek grammar
Collection: Grammatical Voices
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Active voice

Active voice is a grammatical voice common in many of the world's languages. It is the unmarked voice for clauses featuring a transitive verb in nominative–accusative languages, including English and most other Indo-European languages.

Active voice is used in a clause whose subject expresses the agent of the main verb. That is, the subject does the action designated by the verb.[1] A sentence whose agent is marked as grammatical subject is called an active sentence. In contrast, a sentence in which the subject has the role of patient or theme is named a passive sentence, and its verb is expressed in passive voice. Many languages have both an active and a passive voice; this allows for greater flexibility in sentence construction, as either the semantic agent or patient may take the syntactic role of subject.[2]


In the following examples the active and passive voice are illustrated with pairs of sentences using the same transitive verb.

Language Active voice Passive voice
English The dog bit the postman. The postman was bitten by the dog.
Arabic عَضّ الكلبُ ساعي البريد. (The dog bit the postman.)
'eَd alklbu sa'ey albryd
عُضّ ساعي البريد بواسطة الكلب. (The postman was bitten by the dog.)
'eud sa'ey albryd bwasth alklb
French Brackett a écrit ce livre. (Brackett has written this book.) Ce livre a été écrit par Brackett. (This book has been written by Brackett.)
German Der Hund biss den Postboten. (The dog bit the postman.) Der Postbote wurde vom Hund gebissen. (The postman was bitten by the dog.)
Japanese 犬がかんだ。 (A dog bit [someone].)
Inu-ga kanda
犬にかまれた。 (By a dog [I] was bitten.)
Inu-ni kamareta
Polish Pies ugryzł listonosza. (The dog bit the postman.) Listonosz został ugryziony przez psa. (The postman was bitten by the dog.)
Spanish La policía detuvo el tráfico. (The police stopped the traffic.) El tráfico fue detenido por la policía. (The traffic was stopped by the police.)
Swedish Tjänaren bär vinet. (The servant carries the wine.) Vinet bärs av tjänaren. (The wine is carried by the servant.)

See also


  1. ^ O'Grady, William, John Archibald, Mark Aronoff, and Janie Rees-Miller (eds.) (2001). Contemporary Linguistics: An Introduction Fourth edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's. ISBN 0-312-24738-9
  2. ^ Saeed, John (1997). Semantics. Oxford: Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-20035-5
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