Passive voice and Active voice with respect to “there are”, “they are” “there is” and when there is no action

From my understanding the difference between Passive voice and Active voice is based on action. For example, “Steve loves Amy” – active. “Amy is loved by Steve.” – passive.

Now what if there is no action in my sentence? How do I know whether it’s active voice or passive voice? Here are a few examples.

  1. There is a dog lying on the floor. – Here “lying” is not an action but state.
  2. The moon is visible through the window. – No action here.
  3. There are several display panels around the control deck. – No action. This is just a statement which describes a scene.
  4. John and David are sitting on the floor.
  5. There are a few other kinds of flowers in the garden.

Basically all these sentences are trying to describe a scene or picture. No action is performed by anybody here. I’m not sure whether these are active or passive voice, and if so, how? Are these sentence neither active nor passive voice?


The difference between active and passive is not whether there is an ‘action’ but the syntactic role of the person or thing ‘acted upon’.

In a sentence cast in the active voice, the subject is the Agent – the ‘doer’ – and the direct object is the Patient – the one ‘acted upon’ or ‘done to’.

Agent loves Patient.

When that sentence is recast in the passive voice, the Patient becomes the subject and the Agent disappears, or is relegated to a prepositional phrase.

Patient is loved [by Agent].

So intransitive verbs – verbs which do not take a direct object – cannot be cast in the passive voice, because there’s no Patient to become the subject of a passive sentence.

Agent dies. … there’s no Patient who can ‘be died by’!

BE is an intransitive verb: it has no Patient, only an Agent to whom some quality is imputed, so it cannot be cast in the passive voice. It is always active.

marks an utterance as unacceptable

Source : Link , Question Author : T2E , Answer Author : StoneyB on hiatus

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