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What is an Active Sentence? (Definition, Examples, Grammar)

What is an active sentence? How does an active sentence work? What are examples of active sentences? These are all great, common questions that English writers ask. We’ll answer each of them in this comprehensive guide on active sentences.

What is an active sentence?

As you all know, a sentence has a subject, a verb, and in many cases, an object too. In an active sentence, the subject performs the action.

Let’s see an example to understand it better:

  • Mary cleaned the table.

Here, Mary is the subject. The action cleaned is done by Mary, the subject. 

  • Jason cut the wood.

In this example, the subject is Jason, and he is performing the action of cutting the wood. So, it is an active sentence.

Active sentence vs. other sentence formations

When the subject in a sentence performs the action, it is an active sentence.

Are all sentences written in an active form? No, we use sentences where the subject does not do the action. What do we call such sentences? They are called passive sentences.  

Passive sentence

In a passive sentence, the subject does not do any work. Instead, the work is done by the subject or receives the action.

We will understand it further with the example we gave above for active sentences. 

  • Mary cleaned the table. (Active)

Changing it to passive form, the sentence becomes:

  • The table was cleaned by Mary.

Here, the subject is “table.” The table is not doing the cleaning. But the cleaning is done on the table. It means the action is happening on the subject, not by the subject. Such sentences are called passive sentences.

Difference between passive sentence and active sentence

We will understand the difference between active and passive sentences with more examples.

In the above sentence, “David” is the subject. The action of throwing is done by the subject, “David.” So, it is an active sentence.

The same sentence is written in the passive form in the following way.

  • The ball was thrown by David.

You will see that in the above sentence, the ball is the subject, and the action or verb is happening on the subject. So, it becomes a passive sentence.

Let’s see another example

  • John is driving the car.

In this example, John, the subject of the sentence, is doing the action of riding a bicycle.

Let’s now change the sentence to passive form.

  • The car is being driven by John.

In the passive form, the subject is ‘the car,’ and it is not doing the driving (work), but the work is done on the car.

Examples of active sentences

  • Meera plays the piano well.
  • Kiara is a great dancer.
  • The children are playing in the park.

How to identify an active sentence

It is very easy to identify an active sentence

  • The subject in the sentence is active and doing the action. 
  • The sentence will always have an object.  
  • When you ask the question of who is doing the action or who is responsible for the verb, you will get the subject as the answer.

For example, in the sentence:

  • The cat is drinking milk.

The action or verb is ‘is drinking.’ Ask the question, ‘Who is drinking milk? The answer you get is ‘the cat,’ which is the sentence’s subject. It is another method of finding out an active sentence.

Why are active sentences important?

Active sentences are easy and short to comprehend.

Active sentences are concise and represent ideas, thoughts, and situations effectively. They are shorter when compared to passive sentences. You will understand it clearly with the examples written below.

  • The cat caught the rat. (Active sentence)
  • The rat was caught by the cat. (Passive sentence) 

They are direct and simple

  • The shopkeeper was adding the bill amount. (Active)
  • The bill amount was being added by the shopkeeper. (Passive)

The above examples show that you can convey the message faster and more efficiently to the reader using active sentences, which are engaging too. Hence, active sentences are preferred by many when compared to passive sentences.


How do we recognize an active sentence?

In an active sentence, the subject does the action. It will have an object too. It will have a format subject + verb + object.

What are the advantages of active sentences over passive sentences?

Active sentences are short, direct, simple, and easy for the reader to understand compared to passive sentences.


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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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