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Passive Voice

¤  ACTIVE & PASSIVE TENSES CHART…  ⇒ [01] ⇔  [02]

We find an overabundance of the passive voice in sentences created by self-protective business interests, magniloquent educators, and bombastic military writers (who must get weary of this accusation), who use the passive voice to avoid responsibility for actions taken.

Thus «Cigarette ads were designed to appeal especially to children» places the burden on the ads — as opposed to «We designed the cigarette ads to appeal especially to children,» in which «we» accepts responsibility.

At a White House press briefing we might hear that «The President was advised that certain members of Congress were being audited» rather than «The Head of the Internal Revenue service advised the President that her agency was auditing certain members of Congress» because the passive construction avoids responsibility for advising and for auditing.

One further caution about the passive voice: we should not mix active and passive constructions in the same sentence: «The executive committee approved the new policy, and the calendar for next year’s meetings was revised» should be recast as «The executive committee approved the new policy and revised the calendar for next year’s meeting.»

devil     That’s a quotation from . . .

 ↔ http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/passive.htm

   Go there ↑ for more explanations, charts and a quiz

•→More examples & practice

◊  Easy introduction to Passive  ↓

◊  Using PASSIVE to avoid responsibility ↓

◊  Describing LANDMARKS  ⇓

Φ Learning & practice activities for smart students of English:

◊  Describing a process . . .  eflsmart
¤  Passive_Verbs with two objects← . . . →Quiz #1←  /  →Quiz # 2
◊  The Passive Voice  ↓  ‘Get’ = ‘Be’

⊕  Alternative ways to form the passive voice
HAVE/GET   +  something   +  PAST PARTICIPLE

As we all live in a busy world, we don’t have the time (or skills) to do all the things that we need to. That’s why we have a service industry that will help us get what need done…

A jeweller’s is a place where you can have your watch fixed.
A dry cleaner’s is a place where you can have your suit cleaned.
A florist’s is a place where you can have flowers delivered.
A hairdresser’s is a place where you can have your hair cut.
A dentist’s is a place where you can have your teeth checked.
An optician’s is a place where you can have your eyes tested.
A garage is a place where you can have your car serviced.

•  Quizzes …  →[01]← / →[02]←  / →[03]←

♦ → The Causative Form  ↓

Learn more about the passive voice, and how to use «have» and «get» when talking about actions that were performed for you or to you, in this advanced grammar lesson. To see if you’ve understood the lesson fully, take the free quiz at  http://www.engvid.com/english-grammar-passive-causative/

•  More quizzes …  →[01]←→[02]←

♦  Causative Structures Grammar Rules & Examples ↓

¤  The Writing Center – The Passive Voice  ⇓


Here are a few instances when the passive voice is quite useful:

1. To emphasize an object.   Take a look at this example:

100 votes are required to pass the bill.

This passive sentence emphasizes the number of votes required. An active version of the sentence (“The bill requires 100 votes to pass”) would put the emphasis on the bill, which may be less dramatic.

2. To de-emphasize an unknown subject/actor.   Consider this example:

Over 120 different contaminants have been dumped into the river.

If you don’t know who the actor is—in this case, if you don’t actually know who dumped all of those contaminants in the river—then you may need to write in the passive. But remember, if you do know the actor, and if the clarity and meaning of your writing would benefit from indicating him/her/it/them, then use an active construction. Yet consider the third case.

3. If your readers don’t need to know who’s responsible for the action.

Here’s where your choice can be difficult; some instances are less clear than others. Try to put yourself in your reader’s position to anticipate how he/she will react to the way you have phrased your thoughts. Here are two examples:

‘Baby Sophia was delivered at 3:30 a.m. yesterday.’   (passive)   and

‘Dr. Susan Jones delivered baby Sophia at 3:30 a.m. yesterday.’   (active)

The first sentence might be more appropriate in a birth announcement sent to family and friends—they are not likely to know Dr. Jones and are much more interested in the “object”(the baby) than in the actor (the doctor). A hospital report of yesterday’s events might be more likely to focus on Dr. Jones’ role.

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