#GrammarTrivia: the passive voice

In English, the active voice is more common than the passive voice, although the passive voice is acceptable and even preferred at times.

Here are the considerations on when we can use the passive voice in English:

  1. The passive voice is preferred when the actor is unknown or unimportant. e.g. “That building was built in 1894.” From this example we can see that people who built the building are unimportant and not mentioned. That is why the passive voice is preferred.
  2. The passive voice is often used when discussing history. e.g. “The war was fought over gold.”
  3. Remember to use the active voice when the actor is more important than the action. e.g. “The children ate spaghetti for dinner.”
  4. Avoid using active and passive in the same sentence if possible. e.g. “The flowers were planted and the trees were trimmed.”
  5. Use one verb instead of two when possible. e.g. “Lia enjoys good food and music.” (Not: Lia enjoys good food and music is also enjoyed by her.)

Maybe some of the following examples can help us to understand more about the use of the passive voice:

  • AWKWARD: Workers built the pyramids about 5.000 years ago.
  • BETTER: The pyramids were built about 5.000 years ago.
  • AWKWARD: The house was bought by my parents in 1970.
  • BETTER: My parents bought the house in 1970.
  • AWKWARD: If you studied more, your test could be easily passed.
  • BETTER: If you studied more, you could easily pass your test.
  • AWKWARD: The light was turned on by me as I entered my bedroom.
  • BETTER: I turned on the light as I entered my bedroom.
  • AWKWARD: Bob plays the piano and the guitar is played by him also.
  • BETTER: Bob plays piano and the guitar.

Compiled and written by @ChatrineYKat on August 11, 2011

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