Tuesday, February 23, 2010

There Are No Passive Verbs (Part 2 of 2)

Don’t confuse state-of-being verbs such as am, is, are, to be, and being with the passive voice. Consider the difference between "I sing" (action verb), "I was being taught to sing" (passive voice), and "I am a singer" (active voice with verb of being). Most of the time, those being verbs become invisible. If you refuse to use them, your writing sounds bloated and overwritten.

Sometimes you want to emphasize the state of being: The grass was green. That's an acceptable sentence if we want to emphasize the "isness" of grass. You could say the grass grows green, which is boring, but if it grows purple, I'd like to know. You could overwrite and say the grass stretches from the ground. (Would it come from the sky?) You might try something creative such as: Blades of grass wriggle across the once-barren fields. (Don't they stay in one place?)

If using a strong verb causes you to blink (Huh? What does that mean?), change it. The grass was green makes sense and our eyes pass on quickly. Careful use of state-of-being words is acceptable. (Did you notice the state-of-being verb in the last sentence?)

Good writers know grammar and use the proper terms.

2 comments:

  1. The distinctions you've presented here are so helpful. Thank you.

    Johnnie*

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have set me free today. Yes! I am free!

    ReplyDelete

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