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Grammatik auf Englisch - Aktiv oder Passiv

Schlagwörter: OWAD, Englisch, English, Lernen, Grammatik

Native English speakers are traditionally taught — practically from birth — that using the passive tense of verbs is one of the biggest indicators of poor writing style. With all of the insisting some teachers do to discourage its use (usually in the form of bad grades), you’d think someone taught them that the passive voice is an invention of Satan himself.

In reality, the evil lies in incorrect use of the active and passive voices. Using them correctly allows your writing not only to be strong and exact, but to influence the emotional state of the reader. This is very useful in business writing, of course.

We’ll start by reviewing the rules of usage, and conclude with a look at how you can use the active and passive tenses to make your writing more powerful.

Using the active voice

Thing doing action + Verb + Thing receiving action

The active voice is used when the thing doing the action is the subject and the thing receiving the action is the object. Note that the tense of the verb (present, past, etc.) has nothing to do with the voice of the verb. Most tenses can be used in both the active and passive voices. What’s important when using the active voice is that the subject of the sentence is performing the action.

    The manager + presents + the data.
    The manager + presented + the data.
    The manager + will present + the data next month.

Using the passive voice

Thing receiving the action + be + Past participle of verb + by + Thing doing the action

The passive voice is used when the thing receiving the action is the subject of the sentence. The thing doing the action may or may not be mentioned at the end of the sentence.

What’s important when using the passive voice is that the subject of the sentence is the thing receiving the action, and that the thing doing the action is optional.

    The sales team + is + coached + by + an external expert.
    Our products + were + praised + by + the analysts at the tradeshow.
    The office + will be + cleaned + tomorrow.

Difference between the passive voice and the past tense

It’s easy to confuse the past tense and the passive voice because the passive voice often uses past-tense verbs. To understand if you’re using the passive voice rather than the active voice with a past tense verb, determine who is performing the action:

Our secretary received the memo before everyone else.

Here the secretary is performing the action (active), which is in the past tense.

The memo was sent out the next day.

Here we don’t know who performed the action and the thing receiving the action is the subject of the sentence (passive).


    The voice of a sentence has to do with who. The tense of a sentence has to do with when.

Pitfalls when using the passive voice

When passive sentences do not identify the thing doing the action, it’s easy to formulate confusing sentences. Consider the following:

To handle this situation, the customer should be given a full refund or the rela tionship could be damaged.

The meaning is confusing because there are two actions having no thing doing the action. We don’t know what’s meant. It sounds like one way of handling the situation is to intentionally damage the relationship. Such sentences should be avoided by reformulating them into the active voice:

To handle this situation without damaging the relationship, we should give the customer a full refund.

Which voice is correct?

In most business writing, the active voice should be given preference. This makes your writing strong, short and direct.

    The active voice should be used:
  • When the thing doing the action is known and should receive the focus

  • When the action should receive the focus

    Use the active voice for:
  • communicating facts and actions

  • describing what people are doing or have done, or actions they will take

  • showing responsibility


    Under normal circumstances, you should use the passive voice only when the thing doing the action is unknown.

However, the passive voice is useful when you want to influence the reader’s emotions. For example, consider using the passive voice when you’d like to:
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