It’s come to my attention recently that there’s confusion over what constitutes passive voice. For instance, is this sentence active or passive? The dog was walked by the boy.

It’s passive because you have 1) a form of the verb to be (was) and 2) a past participle (walked). A past participle usually, but not always, ends in -ed. Also, the subject of the sentence usually takes the action of the verb in a passive sentence. The boy is the subject, above, and the dog is the object. The boy walked the dog is active; it shows the subject doing the action.

Now, what about this sentence: “It’s over there,” Beth said, gesturing toward the back of the room. Definitely active. Beth does the action here. The confusion comes when people mistakenly believe that the -ing form of a verb is passive. It’s not.

Seems obvious, I know, but I ran across something very similar recently and I was amazed that someone thought it was a passive construction. I’ve even seen it where people think any sentence with a form of to be is passive: John was counting the money. Um, no. It’d probably be better if John counted the money, but was counting isn’t passive. John is doing the action to the object (money).

Google “passive voice” and see what comes up. Thus ends the unasked for grammar lesson. 🙂