1. Punctuate THIS!
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    Punctuate THIS! Member

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    Passive voice?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Punctuate THIS!, Oct 6, 2009.

    When I write this sentence: "The works of Binny had finally been revealed," my grammer/style checking software hilights "had finally been revealed" as being passive voice.

    I have no idea what this means! Is the sentence wrong? Is it suggesting that I should use the word "have" instead of "had?" Is question of tence?

    Somebody clue me in! Please!
     
  2. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    "had finally been revealed" is passive voice.

    "were finally revealed" is active.

    Key things to look for are "had," "been", or "-ing"
     
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, your example as well is in the passive.

    The passive voice simply means that there is no subject that goes with the primary verb or the direct object.

    We have no idea who or what did the revealing; hence, passive voice.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Who or what revealed Binny's work? Passive voice conceals or weakens the actor of the verb action, and dilutes the srtrength of the verb as well. You can use passive voice if you want, but you usually have a weaker sentence if you do. If you do choose to use active voice, just don't make it a habit.

    Passive voice isn't wrong. It exists in language for a reason. But it has no vigor. It lies limp and motionless on the floor.
     
  5. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah crap! Now I feel stupid.:(
     
  6. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I'm just gonna put this out there.....passive voice is underused in American fiction. This obsession with strong sentences and active voice is, in my experiece, a very American thing. It seems that many British writers (and writers from (ex-)Britsh Colonies) and French writers use te passive voice a lot more than their American counter-parts maybe would.

    So I agree that it should be used less than active voice (if only forthe simply reason that the majority of sentences do not work at all in passive voice) but it isn't limp or dead by definition any more than active is always strong or energetic by definition. It has a place in fiction that I think you would be ill-advised to ignore or neglect.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    The Romance languages in general make heavy use of the passive and also the reflexive voice in syntax.
     
  8. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    The problem is that passive voice can be ambiguous. It works in the news in many cases though: “Obama was hit by a train when his car died on the tracks.” We don’t want to use train as a subject because it is not important in and of itself.

    In fiction, the passive voice works against the author in trying to draw a picture in the readers mind, so go ahead and put the train as the subject.

    However, if you want to make a point, stay as far away from the passive as possible. If I hear an argument, and there’s a passive voice sentence, I’ll ignore the claim because it’s not worth my time. It’s a fallacy, but I don’t remember the name of it. Anyway, if an argument is stated with a passive voice, he or she is usually using generalizations and trying to hide the fact that there are no facts.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not one that I am aware of.

    Passive voice has its place, but you need to be aware of its drawbacks. Active voice is more assertive, more vital, which is why writers are cautioned against overuse of passive voice. Just don't get carried away with a zealot's rage against passive voice.
     
  10. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    “Suppression of the agent” is what it is called as an informal fallacy, though I think it falls under more than one category when you see it in an argument because other fallacies will be linked to it.

    If anyone wants to check it I got it from here: (but I’ve seen it in more than one place)
    http://www.edifymin.org/Logic/informal/informalfallacies.htm
     
  11. dgraham
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    dgraham Senior Member

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    One way to check if your sentence is passive is to look for a "by phrase"

    e.g. Obama was hit by the train

    If you can add a by phrase to a sentence to explain who or what performed the action then the sentence is passive. Not all passive sentences can take a by-phrase (I believe) so this won't always help, but it's useful.

    Also, only passives where the agent is not mentioned would be guilty of "suppression of the agent"

    e.g. "During the economic crisis, millions of people were thrown out of work."

    By whom?

    However ""During the economic crisis, millions of people were thrown out of work by this policy." would be fine as the agent is in fact not suppressed.
     
  12. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Now you’re guilty of another fallacy. A policy is being personified. Logically a policy cannot make a human action.

    It’s best to write an argument in the active voice.
     
  13. dgraham
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    dgraham Senior Member

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    Yes, but that has nothing to do with passive voice, only with a hastily constructed example that happens to have a personified agent.

    How about "mistakes have been made"? This violates your first fallacy of suppression, but it is easy to add a non-personified agent: "mistakes have been made by the policy PERSON'S NAME HERE". ;)

    I'm just saying that it isn't necessarily fallacious to use a passive construction, but I totally agree that it can lead to fallacious or obscure reasoning in argumentation.
     
  14. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    Agreed, but I still think that in most cases the passive voice is being used for deception
     
  15. Punctuate THIS!
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    Punctuate THIS! Member

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    What if the passive voice of one sentence is preceeded by several active voice sentences earlier in the paragraph? Isn't that enought establish the direction and the subject?

    We worked very hard to complete our goal. The works of Binny had finally been revealed.
     
  16. DragonGrim
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    DragonGrim Contributing Member

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    I think I know what you mean, but I am totally confused by those two sentences, which is probably the result of the passive voice. But yes, it is possible to give the reader enough information to help them make sense of passive voice or fragment sentences. Usually. It has been done.
     
  17. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Passive voice really isn't at all difficult to understand...a great deal of thought is not required to work out what is being said in passive voice, even when the meaning is implicit. In an argument, I guess you could make a (weak) argument that it obscures the real agent, as ith the policy example above, but again, iit isn't at all difficult to undersand that 'the policy' is being used metonymically to represent 'the people who made the policy'.
     
  18. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Active versions of this sentence:

    Benny had finally revealed his works.
    Benny finally revealed his works.
     

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