Passive Voice: The Best Test Ever

“Eliminate passive voice whenever possible.”

My editor is so polite. He doesn’t have a fit when he finds passive voice in my work. But as soon as he mentions it, my mind goes blank. Sometimes I’m like that when you put me on the spot.

I think the big problem with this is my grammar education was limited. I learned more about grammar and parts of speech in English studying Spanish than I did in all my English classes put together.

So I feel like it is a struggle to find passive voice in order to eliminate it. Thank goodness for the Zombie Test.

If you don’t feel like watching the video, in an active sentence the subject is doing something.

Amber eats the apple.

Amber (the subject) eats. Yep. That’s active.

In a passive sentence, the subject is acted on.

The apple is eaten.

The apple (the subject) is eaten. Definitely passive.

But not all sentences that contain a “to be” verb are passive. Sometimes it is a linking verb.

The apple is fruit.

Not sure you can tell? Add the phrase “by zombies.” If the sentence makes sense, it is passive.

Amber eats the apple by zombies.

Nope. That doesn’t work so it is definitely active.

The apple is eaten by zombies.

That makes sense so the sentence is definitely passive. The Zombie Test. Learn it. Use it. Eliminate passive voice whenever possible. Your editor will be happy. And, no. That is not passive. In that case, it is a linking verb. Isn’t grammar something special?

–SueBE