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PASSIVE (VOICE)

PASSIVE (VOICE). A grammatical term that contrasts with actiye (VOICE): where the sentence Helen met the visitors is in the active voice, the sentence The visitors were met by Helen is in the passive voice. The American grammarian Dennis Baron (in ‘Going out of style?’, English Today 17, Jan. 1989) has argued that since the 1940s, especially in the US, writers of guides to good writing have increasingly urged their readers to avoid or minimize passive constructions: the passive voice has not only become associated with general wordiness and confusion but also, especially in its ‘agentless’ form, with evasiveness and deception, as in The bombs were dropped on innocent civilians (by whom?). In 1946, George ORWELL, in his essay ‘Politics and the English Language’ (Horizon, vol. 13), proposed the principle ‘Never use the passive where you can use the active.’ However, as has often been pointed out, Orwell (like other commentators opposed to the passive) has none the less used it freely.

Baron notes that critics who downgrade the passive apply to its use such adjectives as ‘lazy’, ‘hazy’, ‘vague’, ‘distant’, ‘watery’, and ‘wordy’. He also draws attention to William Zinsser's observation: ‘The difference between an active-verb style and a passive-verb style—in pace, clarity and vigor—is the difference between life and death for a writer’ (in On Writing Well, Harper & Row, 1980). Opposition to the passive has been strong in recent years in two areas: among many campaigners for plain English and in style checkers, word-processing aids to the editing of especially business documents. Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (1989), however, lists three situations in which the passive has generally been regarded as useful: (1) When the receiver of the action is more important than the doer, as in The child was struck by the car. (2) When the doer is unknown (The store was robbed last night), unimportant (Plows should not be kept in the garage), or too obvious to be worth mentioning (Kennedy was elected president). (3) In scientific writing, because it helps establish a tone of detachment and impersonality. The dictionary's entry on passive concludes: ‘The point, finally, is that sentences cast in the passive have their uses and are an important tool for the writer. Everyone agrees you should not lean too heavily on passive sentences and that you should especially avoid awkwardly constructed passives. The few statistical studies we have seen or heard of indicate that you are likely to use the active voice most of the time anyway’ (p. 721). See ACADEMIC USAGE, PASSIVIZATION, TENSE, VERB.

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"PASSIVE (VOICE)." Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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passive

pas·sive / ˈpasiv/ • adj. 1. accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance: the women were portrayed as passive victims. ∎  Chem. (of a metal) made unreactive by a thin inert surface layer of oxide. ∎  (of a circuit or device) containing no source of electromotive force. ∎  (of radar or a satellite) receiving or reflecting radiation from a transmitter or target rather than generating its own signal. ∎  relating to or denoting heating systems that make use of incident sunlight as an energy source. 2. Gram. denoting or relating to a voice of verbs in which the subject undergoes the action of the verb (e.g., they were killed as opposed to he killed them). The opposite of active. • n. Gram. a passive form of a verb. ∎  (the passive) the passive voice. DERIVATIVES: pas·sive·ly adv. pas·sive·ness n. pas·siv·i·ty / paˈsivitē/ n.

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"passive." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"passive." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/passive-0

"passive." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/passive-0

passive

passive (gram.) XIV; suffering action from without XV; (Sc. law) under a liability XVI. — (O)F. passif, -ive or L. passīvus, -īva, f. pass-; see PASSION, -IVE.
Hence passivity XVII.

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"passive." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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passive

passive: see voice.

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"passive." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"passive." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (December 11, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/passive

"passive." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/passive

passive

passiveimpassive, massive, passive •expansive •aggressive, compressive, concessive, degressive, depressive, digressive, excessive, expressive, impressive, obsessive, oppressive, possessive, progressive, recessive, regressive, repressive, retrogressive, successive, transgressive •reflexive •apprehensive, coextensive, comprehensive, defensive, expensive, extensive, intensive, offensive, ostensive, pensive, suspensive •counteroffensive •abrasive, evasive, invasive, persuasive, pervasive •adhesive, cohesive •missive, omissive, permissive, submissive •decisive, derisive, divisive, incisive •irresponsive, responsive •corrosive, explosive, implosive, plosive •abusive, allusive, collusive, conclusive, conducive, delusive, diffusive, effusive, elusive, exclusive, illusive, inclusive, intrusive, obtrusive, preclusive, reclusive, seclusive •percussive •compulsive, convulsive, impulsive, propulsive, repulsive •purposive •coercive, cursive, excursive, subversive

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"passive." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 11 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"passive." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 11, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/passive