Grammar Class: Active vs. Passive Verbs

Today, class, we’ll talk about passive vs. active verbs.

Passive verbs are forms of “to be.” Examples: is, are, was, were, have, had, will. They contain no action.

Good writers prefer active verbs. It’s a tell-tale sign. They still use passive verbs, but the balance tilts heavily toward active verbs.

(I do remember editing freelance manuscripts by writers who had probably just learned this principle, and used active verbs exclusively. Their writing sounded unnatural. It’s fine to use passive verbs in moderation.)

A strong, active verb not only imparts action, but can make modifiers and phrases unnecessary. You show more action with fewer words, and create better pictures in the reader’s mind.

Two examples:

The pastor was in a hurry during his sermon.
The pastor rushed through his sermon.

Dan was walking slowly across the room.
Dan sauntered across the room.

You are dismissed. Or: I hereby dismiss you.

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