Active Verbs: Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Comparative Form: Definition & Examples

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 What Are Active Verbs…
  • 2:07 Are Your Verbs Active?
  • 3:44 How to Change from…
  • 4:09 When It's Okay to Use…
  • 5:23 Be Exciting and Energetic
  • 5:52 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ann Casano

Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.

Whether in resumes, fiction, or essays, the best way to convey meaning is to use active verbs. In this lesson, we will learn why using active verbs is important to great writing and how to recognize the difference between active and passive verbs.

What Are Active Verbs?

There are a lot of ways to construct a sentence, but in many cases, the best way to convey meaning in a succinct and clear manner is to use verbs correctly. A verb is a word that shows action. It is often thought of as the heart of a sentence. The verb can be further broken down into active or passive. This is often referred to as active or passive voice. An active verb is when the verb is clearly the subject, or 'the doer,' of the sentence.

Active Verbs vs. Passive Verbs

In order to write sentences with active verbs, make sure that the thing doing the action is the subject of the sentence and the thing receiving the action is the object. Let's take a look at two different ways to construct a sentence:

Mark passed the history exam.
The history exam was passed by Mark.

Note that in the first sentence, 'Mark' is the subject of the sentence and 'history exam' is the object receiving the action. Let's take a look at the second sentence. 'History exam' is now the subject of the sentence and 'Mark' is now the object.

Which sentence uses an active verb and which sentence uses a passive verb? In the first sentence, 'Mark' is the subject of the sentence and he is doing the action of the sentence. Therefore, the verb 'passed' is an active verb.

In the second sentence, 'history exam' is the subject of the sentence and the thing receiving the action. What happened to Mark? Even though he is still doing the action of the sentence, he is no longer the subject; now he's just the object at the end of the sentence. Therefore, since the subject of this sentence isn't the thing doing the action, the verb 'was passed' is a passive verb.

The first sentence flows better and is easier to understand, while the second sentence seems, well, sort of backwards and convoluted. Read the two sentences out loud. The first sentence clearly conveys a concise and direct meaning. A passive verb can lead to awkward and confusing sentences.

Are Your Verbs Active?

It's easy to make sure that you're writing with active verbs. When proofreading, take a look at the relationship between the subject and the main verb. Ask yourself, 'does the subject perform the action of the verb?' If it does, then the sentence is in active voice. Or, does something else perform the action? If so, then your sentence is in passive voice.

Here's another example:

Rosie loves the dog.

The subject is 'Rosie.' The action is 'loves.' The subject (Rosie) is the one performing the action (loves). Therefore, this sentence is active. What about this example?

The dog is loved by Rosie.

The subject is the 'dog.' The action is 'loved.' The subject (dog) sits passively in the sentence, while the action (loved) is performed by the object (Rosie). Therefore, this sentence is passive.

You will notice that the word 'by' often follows a passive verb. This is not always true, but you can use the word 'by' as a warning that a passive verb may be in the mix. Another indicator of passive voice may be if you see a form of the word 'to be', such as 'am', 'are', 'is', 'was', 'were', 'been', and 'being'. For example, this sentence is in the passive voice:

The musical was revered by the critics.

The word 'was' (a form of 'to be') is a signal that this sentence is in the passive voice.

How to Change from Passive to Active Voice

While editing your work, you've spotted a sentence written in passive voice. Don't worry. It's an easy fix. In order to change a verb from passive to active voice, simply change the subject of the passive verb into the object of the active verb.

Passive: The catcher position was played by John on Friday.
Active: John played the catcher position on Friday.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support