Using Active Sentences in Your TOEFL Essay


Why use the active voice?

When you write your TOEFL iBT essay, it is important that your writing is clear and easy to understand. Using the active voice helps to achieve this. Here's why:

  1. Sentences in the active voice are usually shorter. This makes your writing easier to understand. It also reduces the risk of making mistakes in grammar.
  2. The active voice is more direct, and this is especially important when you are giving your opinion.
  3. Active sentences are strong sentences. They are more powerful because they add color and emphasis to your writing.

Still not convinced that you should use active voice? It's true! In fact, when native speakers of English first begin attending classes in universities and colleges, many professors instruct them to write essays in the active voice. This really does help to make your writing clear.

But when can I use the passive voice?

If you are just now learning how to write a TOEFL iBT essay, it's a good idea to avoid the passive voice. On the other hand, if you already have experience writing TOEFL essays, here are the general rules for when you can use the passive voice:

  1. Use passive when you don't know who performed an action:

    My car was stolen last night!

    In this example, we don't know who stole the car. The important thing is that the car is gone!
  2. Use passive when it is not important who performed the action:

    The cathedral was built in 1643.

    In this example, we are talking only about the building--it is not important who built it.
  3. Use passive when you want to stress the importance of an object, not the action:

    Somebody broke into my house last night. My computer was stolen. My television was stolen. My money was even stolen!

    Here we have four sentences. The first sentence is active--we are stressing the action. The last three sentences are passive--we are stressing the importance of the things that were stolen.
How can I practice using the active voice?

On the next few pages, there are some practice exercises to help you get used to writing in the active voice. You can also practice writing TOEFL iBT essays for free.


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