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Academic Writing
The Passive Voice

The Passive Voice

As speakers of English, we are able to construct sentences such as:

The Prime Minister caused the economic crisis.
The economic crisis was caused by the Prime Minister.

The decision about which sentence to use is governed by whether we want to focus on 'the Prime Minister' and what he or she did, or on 'the economic crisis' and what caused it. This choice in focus is achieved with the use of either the active or the passive voice.

When you want your readers to focus on the 'doer' of an action, you can make the 'doer' the subject of the sentence and use the active form of the verb.

When you want readers to focus on the thing (or person) affected by the action or the action itself, you can make the effect or the action the subject of the sentence and use the passive form of the verb.

Click here to see how the use of the active and the passive voice contribute to formality in the model texts.

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