Understanding Passive Voice
Passive voice refers to sentence construct where the subject receives the action specified by the verb. To better understand the concept, compare the following sentences:
In the passive voice sentence, the subject, 'An apple', is acted upon by the verb, and the original subject 'John' becomes part of the prepositional phrase 'by John'. This is the simplest form of a passive construction.
Constructing Passive Voice Sentences
Using passive voice involves rearrangement of the sentence and includes the following components:
Generally, most passive sentence counterparts maintain the same tense as their active voice counterparts. For instance, present simple, present continuous, past simple, past continuous, and so on.
Reasons For Using Passive Voice
While the active voice is usually more clear and concise, there are several reasons to use passive voice:
1. To Highlight the Action Rather Than the Actor
If your focus is more on the action and less on who or what is performing the action, employing the passive voice can help. For instance:
2. When the Actor is Unknown
Sometimes, we might not know who or what acted as the subject. In such cases, we use the passive voice. For instance:
3. To Avoid Blame
Passive voice can be useful in a diplomatic or sensitive context, where it becomes necessary to avoid placing blame or focus on the actor. For example:
4. To maintain Cohesion
In writing, we sometimes use the passive voice to maintain cohesion or follow a pattern of idea. This makes the writing smooth and logical. For instance:
Reasons Against Using Passive Voice
Despite the advantages mentioned above, excessive or inappropriate use of the passive voice can lead to problems:
1. Lack of Clarity and Directness
Active sentences are usually more straightforward and easier to understand. Passive sentences can sometimes create confusion, especially in complex sentences or when used excessively.
2. Overuse of Passive Voice
Passive voice usually makes sentences longer and they can become difficult to read if used extensively. Overuse of passive voice can make your writing heavy and tedious to read.
3. Lack of Emphasis on Responsibility
Because passive voice can omit the actor of the action, it can sometimes lead to misunderstanding about who bears the responsibility for the action. For example:
4. Passive Voice in Academic Writing
While passive voice is frequently used in scientific and academic writing, it can lead to a depersonalized and vague style which may not engage the reader effectively.
In conclusion, while active voice is typically preferred for clarity and brevity, there are instances where the passive voice is indeed the best choice. Understanding when and how to use passive voice effectively can significantly enhance your writing. To aid in this, use online grammar checkers, or have someone familiar with grammar read your drafts to provide feedback. The ultimate goal is to communicate your thoughts as clearly and directly as possible, with the appropriate amount of detail and emphasis.