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Passive structure

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This question may be very simple, but it is a tough one for me: how do you identify passive sentences, and, once identified, how do you fix them? Finally, how do you avoid them? Thanks! Elizabeth (Lisa) Davidson
#1 - March 16, 2014, 06:05 PM

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Passive sentences usually mean the action is happening to the subject:  The Spanish class was enjoyed by all.

To fix:  Everyone enjoyed the Spanish class.

I think once you're familiar with how they look, they're pretty easy to avoid. (but that might just be me -- I'm also a writing teacher, so I'm used to finding them and helping my students fix them)
#2 - March 16, 2014, 06:16 PM
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There are several threads on this if you search.
#3 - March 16, 2014, 06:21 PM
BUSY-EYED DAY (Beach Lane Books, 2018)
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Thanks to AM for pointing that out. Saves me from going off on my usual passive voice spiel. It's a hot topic.

#4 - March 16, 2014, 08:01 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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Grin.
#5 - March 17, 2014, 08:27 AM

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They're not well marked, however.  I just did a quick search and found nothing which clearly expresses the thread is about passive voice (and I was back in 2012 when I quit).  Also, doing a basic search on 'passive voice' will give you a random sampling on the topic but nothing congregated in one place.  So feel free to ask more questions if you look through the basic search threads and don't find all the answers you seek.  :)
#6 - March 17, 2014, 08:34 AM
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I just did a class on this recently. Tonight I'll find my notes but if the action is happening to the subject or if we are being too tentative.

Passive: The dog began to shake the water from his fur.

Corrected: The dog shook the water from his fur.

certain words and phrases are little passive land mines.

began to, will have been, has been, can be, etc.
#7 - March 17, 2014, 10:37 AM

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Aaargh! All the past posts are missing. I've been rather vocal about this topic in the past since it is one of my big pet peeves. I don't have a lot of time at the moment to explain. I offer you this link and a few examples.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/539/02/

Passive:  The ball was thrown by Horatio

Active:  Horatio threw the ball.

**Many people mistake any use of linking verbs to be passive voice. No.

The following sentences are NOT passive. They follow the pattern of SUBJECT + LINKING VERB + SUBJECT COMPLEMENT.

The apple in the bottom of the bag was rotten.
The children were tired after a long afternoon at the park.

**Sometimes certain verb tenses are mistaken for passive voice, most notably present/past progressive. The following sentences are NOT passive voice.

We were chomping on carrots when the airplane flew overhead.
Hortensia was announcing the winner of the Miss Rutabaga contest when Horatio interrupted.


**The use of certain VERB PHRASES also doesn't necessarily mean PASSIVE VOCE.

My brother can be annoying. NOT passive voice.
Hortencia began humming a tune to quiet her nerves. NOT passive voice.
I've been working on the railroad. NOT passive voice.


The rocket had been launched by the enemy team. PASSIVE VOICE
The enemy team had launched the rocket. ACTIVE VOICE

A hundred corporate banquets will have been served by our waitstaff at the end of this year. PASSIVE VOICE
At the end of this year, our waitstaff will have served a hundred corporate banquets. ACTIVE VOICE


**PASSIVE VOICE is when the action is done TO the subject, instead of the subject DOING the action. Again, all sentences do not have ACTION verbs. That DOES NOT make the sentence passive voice. The use of LINKING VERBS is not passive voice.

**There tends to be a lot of misinformation spread about passive voice. Some people equate it with weak or passive writing. Passive voice is a specific, grammatical construction.

I have written much, much, MUCH better explanations of this in the past on both the SCBWI and Blue Boards (before the merger), but alas that information is gone.

I may have time later to explain more if anyone has questions. Right now, I have to attend to homeschool duties.
#8 - March 17, 2014, 11:40 AM
« Last Edit: March 17, 2014, 12:22 PM by Lill »
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Also, passive voice is NOT incorrect writing. There are times that it is the best choice, particularly in scientific writing. In fiction, it should be used very sparingly -- it can bog down writing.

#9 - March 17, 2014, 11:43 AM
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Andracill (Robin) above gives correct examples of passive voice and how to change it to active voice.
#10 - March 17, 2014, 11:54 AM
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Thanks for your clarification, Lill.   :like

I did a search and all those old threads have disappeared.
#11 - March 17, 2014, 12:06 PM
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I had a really, really good tutorial that a lot of people liked and alas -- it's been lost in the ether. This was the best I could do on the fly.
#12 - March 17, 2014, 12:08 PM
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Also, passive voice is NOT incorrect writing. There are times that it is the best choice, particularly in scientific writing. In fiction, it should be used very sparingly -- it can bog down writing.

This. Using the passive construction can occasionally be exactly what is needed in a specific situation.  It's a tool, and while it shouldn't be overused, it shouldn't be mindlessly avoided, either.
#13 - March 17, 2014, 12:10 PM
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Listen to Lill. She is right on.


There's a ton of misinformation out there on passive voice, including an entire article I recently found in a fairly well-known writer's guide, authored by a professor, which purports to be about passive voice -- but is not.  :sigh Read this line by Lill again:


[size=0px]**There tends to be a lot of misinformation spread about passive voice. Some people equate it with weak or passive writing. Passive voice is a specific, grammatical construction.[/size]
#14 - March 17, 2014, 12:21 PM
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-- it's been lost in the ether.

Good use of the passive voice there^, for the culprit is unknown. ;)

I avoid it in PB, use it judiciously in MG, and don't worry about it in personal (not business) letters. Like all writing rules, the most important aspect is to understand the "why" of them.
#15 - March 17, 2014, 12:28 PM
THE VOICE OF THUNDER, WiDo Publishing Aug 2012
THERE'S A TURKEY AT THE DOOR, Hometown520 July 2011

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Thanks for the backup ladies. :)
#16 - March 17, 2014, 12:31 PM
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Yes!  A completely agree that passive voice can be a great tool -- it's like any rhythmic aspect of writing.  Sometimes you need to mix things up a bit, and using passive voice can be a great way to do it.

And Lill is (without a doubt) one of our experts here -- she knows what she's talking about.  :)  (Thank you, Lill, for sharing -- sorry the older threads got lost!)
#17 - March 17, 2014, 12:41 PM
Robin
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I'm a wee bit obsessive about this. Here's another link that may be helpful.
https://jerz.setonhill.edu/writing/grammar-and-syntax/active-and-passive-verbs/

And THIS slideshow with a lego mini-figure. :)
http://web.archive.org/web/20100727041152/http://blogs.setonhill.edu/DennisJerz/ActivePassive.swf

#18 - March 17, 2014, 01:06 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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 :lol4   *LOVE* the mini-fig slideshow!
#19 - March 17, 2014, 01:26 PM

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That's the best explanation of it that I've seen anywhere.

Okay, I'm on deadline -- no grammar emergencies for a week, okay?  :)
#20 - March 18, 2014, 05:42 AM
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Fun links, Lill.


One other thing I would add is that you must have an active verb in order to have passive voice. An active verb can take a direct object but an inactive verb can't. Do they teach this in school anymore?


Active Verb


Ex: The boy kicked the ball.  (Active Voice)
boy =subject
kicked=active verb
ball=direct object


The ball was kicked by the boy.  (Passive Voice)


Inactive Verb


Ex: The boy was sick.   
boy=subject
was=inactive verb
sick=adjective


If you try to make this sentence passive, it doesn't make any sense: Sick was by the boy.



#21 - March 18, 2014, 09:33 PM

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I always tell my students to add "by zombies" to the end of a sentence. If it makes sense, it's passive voice.

Active voice: Sarah put the bowl on the table (by zombies). {makes no sense}
Passive voice: The bowl was put on the table (by zombies). {makes sense}

You could use something other than zombies, but why would you?
#22 - March 18, 2014, 09:40 PM
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One other thing I would add is that you must have an active verb in order to have passive voice. An active verb can take a direct object but an inactive verb can't. Do they teach this in school anymore?


Often taught (at one time, anyway) as "transitive" and "intransitive." The transitive verb "transfers" the action to an object. The way this is usually stated is that a transitive verb "takes" an object. The intransitive does not. You must have a transitive verb in a sentence in order to express it in passive voice.


I have no idea if passive voice is taught anymore. Or, going by that article I read, maybe it's no longer being taught correctly.

dews --  :dr


#23 - March 19, 2014, 06:52 AM
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Ah, yes. Transitive and intransitive. My brain must have been on vacation. We are in the middle of changing from Windows XP to Windows 8.1 and it's taking all available brain power to make the transition. Thanks for the clarification.

Zombies.  :dr
#24 - March 19, 2014, 08:28 AM
« Last Edit: March 19, 2014, 08:29 AM by Pons »

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Ah, and I thought this thread was dead. I'm in the middle or writing a worksheet unit on Passive/Active voice and came over here to look at my examples.

In the example: The boy was sick. The verb is was, a form of 'to be.'  Was is a linking verb. Linking verbs include am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, looks, seems, feels, etc. It's a long list, but it's before 7am here.

A transitive verb can take a direct object, but an intransitive verb cannot. Both transitive and intransitive verbs are action verbs.

While some verbs can be transitive or intransitive depending on how they are used, some words are always intransitive: die, lie, arrive, sneeze, sit, and go. *From this source - http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/intransitiveverb.htm

But yes, it's like Marcia says -- you have to have a transitive verb to have passive voice.

Ah, thanks for the continued conversation. This helps as I write worksheets on active and passive voice for elementary school students. I'm explaining it in terms of sentence pattern and showing how the pattern is flipped around to go from active to passive.
#25 - March 22, 2014, 04:48 AM
« Last Edit: March 22, 2014, 04:51 AM by Lill »
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In a typical active voice sentence, you have SUBJECT + ACTION VERB + DIRECT OBJECT.

The bird ate the worm. Bird is the subject, ate is the action verb, and worm is the direct object.

To convert it to passive voice, make the direct object the subject. Change the verb to the past participle and add the appropriate auxiliary (helping verb). The original subject becomes the object of a prepositional phrase starting with by.

The worm is eaten by the bird. Worm is the subject, is eaten is the verb (still action), and bird is the object of the preposition.


Sources:
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/passive.htm
http://www.english-grammar-revolution.com/Diagram_It-passive-voice.html


The verbs in both passive and active voice are action verbs. The action verb is just in passive form in passive voice. A linking verb is neither an action verb or a passive verb form. It's a linking verb. It links an adjective or noun to the subject. These adjectives or nouns define or describe the subject. Action verbs show action. The difference in active and passive voice is whether the subject is PERFORMING  :eb or RECEIVING  :bricks  the action.




In the late 80's and early 90's, Whole Language was the trend in Language Arts instruction. I was teaching junior high English at the time. In layman's terms, grammar was supposed to be learned through osmosis by reading lots of good literature. I had 7th graders who hadn't been taught the parts of speech in early grades. I do blame that trend for a lot of the wonky, incorrect, and "pop" grammar I see these days.


 :beating  I hope I 'splaned all that correctly. It's 7:35am on Saturday.


#26 - March 22, 2014, 05:21 AM
« Last Edit: March 22, 2014, 05:40 AM by Lill »
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Have we completely scared away the original poster?
#27 - March 22, 2014, 05:42 AM
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Lill, thanks for working through your process "in public" for us. This is an awesome thread that shouldn't be lost.


Your summary is how I've always thought of it: performing or receiving the action. Or, subject performing action on object vs. object being done to by subject.


And yes, I'm completely convinced this change happened with Whole Language. I knew the ditching spelling and grammar part of it was a mistake at the time, even thought I liked the move to reading "real stories."


When you think about it, it's like expecting people to learn how to use tools ONLY by watching others do so, with never any personal instruction on how to do what they do. How can the results not be sketchy?
#28 - March 22, 2014, 06:50 AM
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I still mourn the fact that sentence diagramming is no longer taught.
#29 - March 22, 2014, 06:53 AM
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In defense of whole language, the entire language was supposed to be taught. That's why it was called whole language. It was misinterpreted in implementation as so many educational theories are. The literature was supposed to be the beginning and basis of instruction, so the sentences being taken apart should have come from whatever was being read. At least that's how I understood it as an education major in the late '80s, early '90s.
#30 - April 21, 2014, 08:15 AM

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