You are on page 1of 2

RYERSON UNIVERSITY LEARNING SUCCESS CENTRE

Understanding Active and Passive Verbs There are many patterns of English sentences. One standard pattern is Subject I (performs the ti ) Action Verb heated (expresses the action) Object the mixture (receives the action)

There is some debate among scientific writers about whether to “put yourself” into a lab report by using the active voice of verbs. When you use active verbs to describe what you did in the experiment, you make yourself or you and your lab partners the grammatical subjects of sentences. In other words, you show that you performed the action of the verb. S V O EXAMPLES: I heated the mixture . . . S V O We programmed the microcontroller . . . The argument for active verbs is that they are clearer, more concise, and easier to read. However, many scientific writers prefer to use the passive voice. When you use passive verbs, you do not specify who performed the action. EXAMPLES: S V The mixture was heated . . . [The mixture did not perform the action of the verb. This passive construction does not specify who did.] S V The microcontroller was programmed . . . [The microcontroller did not perform the action.] The argument for passive verbs is that they make the report seem more objective; i.e., passive verbs imply that anyone who conducted the experiment would get the same results. In your lab reports, you will have to use the type of verb your professor prefers. NOTE: Voice and tense are not the same thing. The voice of a verb depends on whether or not the subject performs the action. The tense of the verb indicates the time of the action (e.g., past or present). You will use the past tense of either the active or passive voice to describe what you did in the experiment. • past tense, active voice (I heated the mixture . . .) • past tense, passive voice (The mixture was heated . . .)

. . . . S O ACTIVE: I measured the actual temperature . . If you are not sure of the past participle of an irregular verb. PASSIVE: This value was loaded into . . . . ACTIVE: I measured the actual temperature . PASSIVE: A pressure transducer and thermocouple were attached . ACTIVE: I attached a pressure transducer and thermocouple . . . PASSIVE: The differences in the voltages were divided by . PASSIVE: Global efficiencies were calculated . . ACTIVE: I divided the differences in the voltages by . . . . . which in regular verbs ends in –ed. PASSIVE: The actual temperature was measured . . . . S PASSIVE: The actual temperature was measured . ACTIVE: I loaded this value into . . Here are a few more examples: ACTIVE: We calculated global efficiencies .FORMING PASSIVE VERBS To change a sentence from active to passive. • change the verb from the active to the passive voice. . . . . check a dictionary. • use the object of the verb in the original sentence as the subject in the new sentence. . There are two parts to a passive verb in the past tense: o the helping verb was (singular) or were (plural) o the past participle of the main verb. .