Active Voice (definition)

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For discussion of the difference between active and passive in Scottish Gaelic, see Passive Voice


The active voice is a term borrowed from traditional grammar to indicate a transitive verb which takes an agent as its subject, and which grammatically expresses all of its arguments. The active voice is defined mainly in contradistinction to the Passive voice, in which the noun normally expected to appear as the direct object of the verb (usually a non-agent, semantically), is expressed as the subject of the verb, while the more agent-like argument is optionally expressed obliquely.

(1) is a typical example of the active voice.

1) Jones painted a picture.

Compare this to the passive version:

2) A picture was painted (by Jones).

Note that both (1) and (2) have essentially the same meaning, in the sense that if one is true then the other is true, and if one is false then the other must be as well.

Note also that active and passive voice are grammatical distinctions, not semantic ones. Sentences in the active voice need not be "active" in any general sense, nor do sentences in the passive voice necessarily denote a "passive" or "non-active" event. Nor are sentences in the active voice necessarily less vague about agency than passive sentences.

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