Last week, an alleged cranky old teacher gave us a GREAT lesson on grammar. I almost changed my mind to do a full post on passive voice as I said I would in my last post. Since Grammarly keeps accusing me of using it, I decided I needed a full post on the topic. But I loved what she wrote, so let’s review it (her #4) and then I will expand on it and hopefully, then if nothing else, I will get it! Isn’t that the point, we make sure the “teacher” knows the lessons? hehe
4. If at all possible, use active voice.
In the ACTIVE voice, the subject performs the action. In the passive voice, the subject is the VICTIM of the action. The only good time to use passive voice is when you’re trying to avoid assigning blame.
So, say, the clerk, Esme, left the shop and forgot to lock the door. Active voice would be this:
Esme left the door unlocked.
The subject is the clerk, Esme; the action was leaving. (The action SHOULD have been locking, but Esme, poor dumb bunny, forgot.)
If I was a kind boss writing a police report after the discovery of missing items–the thieves walking in and helping themselves, thanks to the unlocked door–I might write:
The door was left unlocked.
Here, the door is the subject; it is the victim of the clerk’s forgetfulness. Notice Esme does not appear anywhere in the sentence. This is passive. In a passive sentence, if it’s not stated, you always have to ask yourself: by whom? Or–by what?
In 99 per cent of cases, it’s better writing to be active–let your subject be the doer.
Now to further expand, and if you are like me, you need more!
The passive voice is a grammatical construction (specifically, a “voice”). The noun or noun phrase that would be the object of an active sentence (such as: Our grandson threw toys every day) appears as the subject of a sentence with passive voice (Every day, toys were thrown.)
In most English sentences with an action verb, the subject, grandson, performs the action denoted by the verb: threw. These examples show that the subject is doing the verb’s action. Because the subject does or “acts upon” the verb in such sentences, the sentences are said to be in the active voice.
Another way to put this is: When the verb is active, threw, the subject performs the action (grandson); when the verb is passive, the subject is the recipient of the action: Toys were thrown every day. In the examples given above, both verbs are present tense; the difference between them is called voice. This has a subtle effect upon the impact of the sentence.
When the subject of the sentence is doing something the verb is active. When the object of the sentence is having something done to it, the verb is passive. Identify which is active: The grey hat was worn by the man. OR The man wore a grey hat.
I thought a little test would help bring this lesson home!