Explorations: my author blog

Point of View, part 1: what is this thing called voice?

Like many beginning writers, I've been struggling with the concept of voice. It seems to me that "voice", in writing, has at least two meanings, if not more. First, there's voice in grammar. Any verb in English will have both tense, voice and mood. Tense is pretty obvious - every verb has to be in either past, present, or future. Voice, in this context, means passive or active. Mood is indicative or subjunctive/conditional. So - what does all this technical speech really mean?

Here's an example: Take the sentence, "Charlie thought the world would be a better place if cars did not exist." The first verb we come across is "thought". That's in past tense, clearly. The voice is active - Charlie's doing the thinking. The mood is indicative - so far. The next verb, though, is "would be" That's also past tense, but the mood is conditional. The world is not a better place, because cars do exist. That's why the conditional mood is sometimes called "contrary to fact".  The final clause of this sentence is also contrary to fact, and also past tense.