Rebecca Johnson you’re a genius. Teachers everywhere should rejoice, and so should any students who haven’t yet mastered passive voice. If you’re still new to this and aren’t sure how passive voice works or why Rebecca’s work-around is so boo-tiful, let us explain.
Odds are high that you have, at some point in your life, had passive voice marked on an essay or piece of writing. Odds are higher that you probably had no idea what in the world that meant. Basically, it is this. Passive voice is when the noun being acted upon is made the subject of the sentence. (Active voice is when the noun doing the action is the subject.) Let me explain with an example.
The house was haunted.
“The house” is the noun being acted upon, in other words “house” is the object of the verb “to haunt”. It’s clear here that the house is not doing the haunting. It is not doing the action. It is receiving the action. However, it is the subject of the sentence, which makes this sentence a passive voice sentence. (In an active voice sentence, the noun performing the action should be the subject. In this case, the active voice version would be: “Ghosts haunted the house.”)
Using “by zombies” to help identify passive voice
If you are still having trouble understanding passive voice, here is where Rebecca’s idea can help. Usually (but not always), passive voice can include the actor, usually following the verb. Basically, if you can add “by zombies” after the verb and it makes sense, you probably have passive voice.
The town was attacked (by zombies).
Yes, this makes sense; therefore, it is a passive voice sentence. To make this sentence active, you will need to put the noun doing the action in the subject location of the sentence. That is: “Zombies attacked the town.” Now we can check for passive voice:
Zombies attacked the town (by zombies).
No, this doesn’t make sense; therefore it is active voice.
These are simple examples and not every passive voice sentence will be identifiable with this trick, but it will help for a significant number of examples. If you would like to help others learn how to identify the passive voice, leave your tips, tricks, and exceptions in the comments!