We use the passive voice for the following reasons:
when we do no know who performs the action.
- The bank was broken into last night.
when it is important to know who performs an action.
- This beautiful oil painting was done by my grandmother.
when it is not important to know who did the action.
- All these household wares were imported from Hong Kong.
when the action itself is more important than the doer.
- The two siblings were killed in a road accident.
when we are interested only in what happened rather than who or what did it.
- The 24-foot python was caught in that village.
when we wish to emphasize the person or thing acted on rather than the one who did it.
- John was presented with a bravery award yesterday.
when we choose not to name the one who performed the action to cover up a fault.
- The work was poorly done.
when it is felt necessary to evade responsibility by some people or organization.
- The family matter is being dealt with by someone.
Reasons for not using the passive voice
The passive voice uses too many words, and at times can be difficult to understand. The active voice expresses in fewer words and is easy to understand. Writing tends to become clearer when unnecessary words are not used.
- Passive: The protesters were kicked, punched and handcuffed by the police before they were taken away in the police van. (Words:19 / Characters: 93)
- Active: The police kicked, punched and handcuffed the protesters before taking them away in a police van. (16/82)