This Doll Could’ve Been Murdered by Passive Voice, if Its Weapon Had Any Sentence Structure

I answered this question on Quora today and I thought I’d share it here too:

“What is the active form of the baby was bought a doll by her?”

I think she’s talking about active vs. passive voice

Hey there! It took me a while to decipher your question, but I think you meant:

“I wrote this in passive voice. Would you please re-write it in active voice? ‘The baby was bought a doll by her.’”

My answer: Sure, I’d be happy to. First, you should know that punctuation is just as important as sentence structure, and a set of quotation marks would’ve made your question much more clear.

Here’s your sentence in active voice:

“She bought the baby a doll.”

You didn’t ask this, but I also want to say a few words about the superiority of active voice. (And thank you for recognizing that your sentence needed editing.) Your question is a perfect illustration of why you should never use passive voice.

“The baby was bought a doll by her”? That sounds awkward and confusing. I had to read it several times before I understood your meaning.

You made “the baby” the subject of your sentence even though the baby didn’t do anything. And this poor soul who bought the doll is relegated to an object pronoun at the very end of the sentence.

Your use of passive voice also added 2 words and a prepositional phrase to a sentence in which very little happens. When you use extra words, especially extra prepositions and clauses, your sentence gets harder to read. As a general rule of thumb, use only as many words as you need, no more.

Finally, I’ll repeat the pained howling of so many writers before me. Passive voice is a squishy, powerless, limp little excuse for a sentence structure. Please avoid it when you can.

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2 thoughts on “This Doll Could’ve Been Murdered by Passive Voice, if Its Weapon Had Any Sentence Structure

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