Monday, 2 October 2017

Three-Point Guide to the Passive Tense

One area in which authors sometimes encounter problems is with the passive tense, using it too often and stripping 'punch' from their prose. You don't need to avoid the passive tense entirely, as at times it can be a useful tool; however, you need to learn when and where to employ it, so today I'll provide a three-point quick guide to the passive tense: when to use it, when to avoid it, and how to make a passive sentence active.

1) When to Use It
Times when you should use the passive tense include: 1) when the agent of the action is unknown; 2) when you wish to place focus on the object rather than the subject; or 3) to express a general truth.

2) When Not to Use It
If we know the agent of the action there is no need to emphasise the object over that agent.

For example, you would use the passive to say ‘The bag was stolen’ because we don’t know who stole it. However, if Bob stole the bag we would use the active. You can see this in the example below.

3) How to Make a Passive Sentence Active
To demonstrate this, let’s take an example.
(Passive) The bag was stolen by Bob.
(Active) Bob stole the bag.
Usually, all it takes to make a passive sentence active is to change the word order and omit the verb ‘to be’.