1. Recognising the passive.
Exercise 1. Look carefully at these sentences and mark them Active or Passive. The last four are in headline format, so you will have to work out the full sentence.
|1.||There were riots in several towns in Northern England last night.|
|2.||Fortunately, the riots were quickly brought under control.|
|3.||But only after several hundred people had been arrested.|
|4.||Henry was totally amazed by all the interest shown in his project.|
|5.||Henry was obviously very interested in completing his project.|
|6.||The interest that has been shown in Henry's project is amazing.|
|7.||MI (Military Intelligence) has told them not to talk to the press.|
|8.||MI (Military Intelligence) have been told to not to talk to the press.|
|9.||New Shooting Spoils Hopes of Truce|
|10.||Peace Treaty Threatened By New Shooting.|
|11.||Bomb in City Centre Detonated in Controlled Explosion.|
|12.||Bus Blows Up in City Centre Causing Considerable Damage.|
2. Constructing the passive.
Exercise 2 - Fill in all the passive tenses of the verb 'interview'
|Simple||On average Mr. Parr about once a week.|
|Continuous||In fact both Parrs right now.|
|Perfect||Catherine Parr twice already this week.|
|Simple||She once yesterday in Bristol.|
|Continuous||At the same time her husband in London.|
|Perfect||He twice already that morning.|
|Simple (will)||And it's probable he again next week.|
|'going to'||Both of them tomorrow.|
|Perfect||By Saturday he five times.|
|Infinitive||They are together tomorrow.|
|Perfect infinitive||They were separately, but the producer changed his mind.|
|Gerund||comes quite naturally to both of them.|
|Perfect gerund||This comes from so often over the years.|
|Participles used passively|
|Past participle||on the BBC, Mr Parr predicted a new recession.|
|Perfect participle||so often, they are quite used to it now.|
3. Denigrating the passive
So who or what are Strunk and White?
A general prejudice
Why this prejudice?
- is wimpy (weak)
- avoids taking responsibilty for an action - 'Mistakes were made'
- is too wordy (critics lay great store by word counts)
- is too formal
- A road accident yesterday has led to the deaths of three people.
- Three people were killed in a road accident yesterday.
- I am afraid that we are going to have to let you go.
- You're fired!
- The referee's decision robbed us of victory.
- Bloody ref! We were robbed!
Misidentifying the passive
A case of mistaken identity
It is possible for the accountants to conduct and complete an audit in 30 days.
The following rewritten, active sentence eliminates all unnecessary words and focuses on actor, action and object:
The accountants can complete the audit in 30 days.
Notice that the 9-word active sentence is much shorter than the lumbering 15-word passive sentence. Active constructions are always shorter than the passive.
4. Passive or adjective?
Exercise 3 - identify whether the past participles (3rd form / -ed form) are being used here as passives or adjectives.
|1.||He has been very depressed lately.|
|2.||Why is he interested in the partition of Poland?|
|3.||I was very much interested by your irritable neighbour.|
|4.||She was embarrassed by his behaviour.|
|5.||She was so embarrassed, she left the room.|
|6.||I can't make head nor tail of this; I'm totally confused.|
|7.||He was totally confused by all the noise.|
|8.||He has been relieved of his duties.|
|9.||He was very relieved at the news.|
|10.||The sheep had obviously been frightened by something.|
|11.||I had been a bit frightened of him before I actually met him.|
|12.||We left the restaurant completely satisfied.|
|13.||Our appetites had been completely satisfied.|
|14.||I'm being considered for promotion.|
|15.||I'm bored with this exercise now.|
5. Why is the passive useful?
1. Emphasis is usually on the subject.
- The Chinese invented or discovered gunpowder, the compass, papermaking and printing (active) - we are interested in the achievements of the Chinese
- Paper was invented by the Chinese (passive) - we are interested in the history of paper.
2. Leading from one sentence to the next.
- In Britain, the 5th November is a night for firework displays. Fireworks are made from gunpowder, which was discovered by Chinese alchemists in the 9th century.
- The Chinese invented or discovered gunpowder, the compass, papermaking and printing. These are known as the Four Great Inventions.
3. When we are not interested in the agent
- My house was broken into last week. (I don't know who by)
- A man has just been arrested for burglary. (presumably by the police)
- Some important government documents have been found in a rubbish bin. (does it really matter who by?)
4. It provides some structural variety
6. The Taj Mahal - a case study
Exercise 4 - Look at this text loosely based on the entry at Wikipedia. Tick the boxes where you think the line would be better in the passive, check your answers then click on 'Show my version'.
|If you are ever in Uttar Pradesh in northern India, you must visit the Taj Mahal.|
|Shah Jahan built this architectural masterpiece in the 17th century.|
|Jahan was the Mughal Emperor at a time of great prosperity in the empire.|
|But sadly his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died in childbirth,|
|and grief overcame Shah Jahan.|
|So he decided to build a mausoleum in her memory.|
|People widely recognize the Taj Mahal as the 'jewel in the crown' of Muslim art in India.|
|It is the finest example of Mughal architecture,|
|which combines elements from Persian, Turkish and Indian architectural styles.|
|Construction began in 1632.|
|They completed the principal mausoleum in 1648,|
|and finished the surrounding buildings and gardens five years later.|
|While people constructed early Mughal buildings mainly in red sandstone,|
|Shah Jahan promoted the use of white marble inlaid with semi-precious stones.|
|and buildings under his patronage reached new levels of refinement.|
7. Back to Strunk and White - a discussion
- I shall always remember my first visit to Boston.
- My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.
|1.||There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground.|
|2.||At dawn the crowing of a rooster could be heard.|
|3.||It was not long before she was very sorry that she had said what she had.|
|4.||The reason that he left college was that his health became impaired.|