Friday, February 19, 2010

There Are No Passive Verbs (Part 1 of 2)

Call me a curmudgeon, but I hate it when people speak of passive verbs. English verbs have voice (active and passive), tense (present, past, and future), and mood (now limited to the subjunctive to express wishes or things contrary to fact.)

Here are a few sentences where writers used the passive voice and could make it stronger with the active.

• I'm sorry my essay was poorly written. (If you're going to apologize, apologize: I'm sorry I wrote a bad essay.)

• It has been found regrettable that many families lost their homes during the recession. (This is pompous prose. Try: I'm sorry that many families lost their homes during the recession.)

• Chores were not finished. (This dilutes the apology and hedges on the matter of guilt. Isn’t it stronger to write, "We didn't finish our chores"?)

You need to ask, "Does the subject of the sentence do anything or is something done to it?"

When you write in the passive, you weaken the impact and tend to lose the visual image we yearn to create.

1 comment:

  1. I like that you clarified passive verbs from passive voice. Thanks for this excellent advice and examples.


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