Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat – Passive Voice

This is the last article I have up my sleeve in the Grammar series, for now. I’ll write another one as soon as I have my books in print-condition, something that has priority at the moment.

The article is a short one, but oh so important! As I’m re-editing my first book (for the so-maniest time), I still find passive voice sentences…

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In passive voice, the object becomes the subject. Obviously, you can only have passive voice sentences with transitive verbs (verbs that act upon an object).

Example 1: The famous writer gave a signed book to his greatest fan.

Example 2: The signed book was given by the famous writer to his greatest fan.

Example 3: His greatest fan was given the signed book by the famous writer.

In Example 1, the sentence is active; the writer gave the book. In Examples 2 and 3, however, the subjects are The signed book and His greatest fan resp., but they don’t do the writing. They were the direct objects and indirect objects resp. in the active sentence. Hence, sentence 2 and 3 are passive sentences. Note that the verb used in these sentences is was which is a dead giveaway.

Passive voice sentences are frowned upon and should be avoided if possible. There are a few instances in which this isn’t possible though.

Example: The baby was born at midnight.

Being born is a passive process; you can’t ‘actively birth’ yourself, hence the sentence containing someone/some animal being born will always be in the passive form.

When to use passive voice

Sometimes the passive voice is useful:

  • When you want to be deliberately vague

Example: The man was killed by one of the guests.

  • When you really don’t know who did it

Example: The man was killed by someone.

  • When it doesn’t matter who did it

Example: The man was killed.

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