I have the following sentence in the passive voice, and I wonder how I can reformulate it to the same sentence in the active voice.
The sentence is:

We can see those times jurors were first appointed by the state.

3 Answers 3


Sentences can't be passive or active. Clauses can.

When you just have one clause in a sentence, the distinction isn't really important, but in this case we have both a main clause and a subordinate clause, and we'll have to consider each of them separately.

We can see those times jurors were first appointed by the state.

In this sentence, the main clause is active already. If we wanted to make it passive, we'd have to swap things around and add a passive auxiliary:

Those times jurors were first appointed by the state can be seen by us.

So we can see that the main clause in your original sentence isn't passive. But the original sentence also contains a subordinate clause, and this clause is passive:

jurors were first appointed by the state

How do we know this clause is passive? Because we have the passive auxiliary be with the main verb as a past participle, because the actor (the state) is the complement of by rather than the subject, and because the theme (jurors) is the subject rather than than the object.

We can rewrite this as an active clause by undoing those three things:

  1. Remove the passive auxiliary be.
  2. Move the state out of the by-phrase, back into subject position.
  3. Move jurors out of subject position, back into object position.

We end up with the following:

the state first appointed jurors

We can put this back in the original sentence:

We can see those times the state first appointed jurors.

Now the main clause and subordinate clause are both active.


Passive voice is {form of to be} + {past participle form of verb}

Active voice is just normal form of the verb.

When converting from passive to active you might have to select a logical subject.

One of the reasons passive voice is used is to avoid expressing a real subject in a sentence, or add a level of indirection by tacking the subject on with a "by ..." prepositional phrase.

The show was seen by my mother.

Technically the subject in this sentence is show. However, this is the active version and what the sentence really means:

My mother saw the show.

The subject of the passive voice sentence becomes the active voice's object.

Something like this though:

Four people were found in the cave still alive.

If you don't know who found the four people, you can't convert it precisely without at least making a small assumption. You could try something like this:

Someone found four people in the cave still alive.

This assumes a single person found the four people.

In situations where making assumptions is dangerous or you have no idea, then leave it passive voice.


Active voice:

We can see those times the state first appointed jurors.

The word "appointed" is the verb -- the action.
Ask yourself who is doing the action ("the state" is doing the action).

Say the name of that person or group first ("the state"), Then say what they did ("appointed"). Putting those two pieces in that order makes it active voice.

The first part of the sentence already has active voice: "(we) (can see)."


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