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Term Definition

In general, the voice expresses the nature of the relationship between the verb and the subject. Within any sentence, there is a relationship between the object, subject and verb.

Definition of 'voice'

Do you want to know more about the meaning of the grammatical concept called voice? Then please continue reading this glossary entry. Voice is a pretty simple concept, once you get the hang of it. 

Voice expresses the specific nature of the relationship between the verb and the subject and object of a given sentence. In English, there are two main kinds of voice. The first is the passive voice, and the second is the active voice. Active voice has the structure of subject-verb-object. Passive voice has the structure of object-verb-subject

Tricky uses and examples

Here is an example of voice being used correctly within a given sentence. 

"The relevant arguments in favor of the reality of global warming will eventually be addressed by the speaker." 

This is a sentence that is properly constructed in the passive voice. 

Now, here is an example of voice being used in within a sentence in an incorrect way

"For dinner yesterday, the woman a meal of pasta with vegetables and salad before a meeting ate quickly."

This sentence is neither in active nor passive voice. It is just all jumbled up. 

In case you are still a little confused about the nature of grammatical voice, here are a couple rules you can follow in order to make sure you are using it in a correct way. 

1. In the English language, there are really only two voices that are appropriate within the context of common modern usage. The first is the active voice, which follows a subject-verb-object pattern. And there is the passive voice, which follows an object-verb-subject pattern. There is really nothing else.

2. Depending on the context of writing, you may or may not be discouraged from making use of the passive voice. This is because the passive voice is generally considered to be a weaker and more ambiguous construction. In particular, it leaves open the option of not specifying who is performing an action.  

Voices in other languages

Again, the modern English language only makes use of the active voice and the passive voice. These are both easy enough to learn. Other languages, though, may have several other, more complex voices. One of the most common of these is the middle voice. English actually had this at some point in its history, although it no longer does. The middle voice is used to express a subject performing an action upon itself. In English, this has been replaced by the reflexive construction; but the middle voice still doe exist in other languages. There are also several other kinds of voice in languages such as Celtic and Mongolian that would be quite foreign to the English speaker. 

Within modern English itself, the use of passive voice is often discouraged by professors and other professionals. This means that you may also be discouraged from using it in academic writing. This is because of the perception that the passive voice does not have the same level of clarity as the active voice. For example, if you simply say that "the point has been made", then this would be a passive voice construction that does not ascribe responsibility for the point to anyone in particular. However, academic writing also sometimes makes use of the active voice difficult insofar as you are not allowed to use the natural subject, "I", that would be required by the active voice itself.   

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