Passive Voice Part Deux


This one is dedicated to my choir-kid daughter Chloe.

As I mentioned in the last issue of Fun with Conan the Grammarian, there are some legitimate reasons to use passive voice:

1. When the receiver of the action is the focus of your paragraph rather than the actor:

Because most choir kids spontaneously burst into song for no apparent reason, many of them get the crap kicked out of them by the jocks.

Since “choir kids” is the focus of the paragraph, using active voice in the second sentence would shift the focus to “jocks.”

2. When using passive voice shortens the sentence subject rather than lengthening it.

Active: The large number of choir kids getting their butts kicked and their inability to control spontaneous outbursts instigated our decision to outfit the choir kids with shock collars.

Passive: Our decision to outfit the choir kids with shock collars was instigated by the large numbers of choir kids getting their butts kicked and their inability to control spontaneous outbursts.

3. When the actor is irrelevant or unknown, or you are intentionally trying to hide the identity of the actor.

The shock collars must be fitted before next Monday.

The body was removed from the crime scene.

4. When passive voice produces greater emphasis on the main point of the sentence.

Active: The school should not subject non-choir kids to endless choruses of “Seasons of Love” from Rent all day long.

Passive: Non-choir kids should not be subjected to endless choruses of “Seasons of Love” from Rent all day long.

5. With a multi-part subject.

Active: Numerous butt kickings, the inability of choir kids to stop singing and the jocks’ lack of foot control instigated the solution we’ve agreed on.

Passive: The solution we’ve agreed on was instigated by butt kickings, the inability of choir kids to stop singing and the jocks’ lack of foot control.

6. When you’re trying to spare someone embarrassment, prosecution or disciplinary action.

The package containing the iron lung was lost in transit…

 

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