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In general we use the Active Voice in everyday speech. But there are some very common instances when it is useful to use the Passive Voice when speaking. Today we are going to look at four of these uses.
1. When we don’t know who does the action – Usually when we use the Active Voice, we are focusing on the doer of the action. But when you don’t know who did the action, it is a little difficult to use. Sure, you can say “Someone stole the car” however it becomes much simpler to say “The car was stolen”. Another example would be “The window was broken”. Again, we don’t know who broke the window.
2. When we don’t want to say who does the action – Sometimes we actually do know who did the action but for whatever reason we don’t want to let it be known. Maybe you don’t want the person who did the action to get into trouble, especially if it is yourself. For example, if you have eaten the last cookie and someone asks if there are any left you can say “The last cookie has been eaten”.
3. When it is not important who does the action – We often talk about things being built in the Passive Voice because the builder of the structure is not the focus of our attention, rather the building itself. For example, you would say “The Empire State Building was built in 1930”.
4. When it is obvious who does the action – The final common way we use the Passive Voice is when it is not necessary to say who does the action because it is obvious. Specific jobs, such as policemen and doctors do actions that are obvious to most people. For example you might say “The man was arrested”. We don’t really need to say by whom, because it is obvious that a policeman would be doing the arresting. Or “The man was operated on”. Again it is obvious that the person doing the operating would be a doctor.
There are other reasons and ways you would use the Passive Voice, but these are four of the main ones. Obviously there are ways of saying these things using the Active Voice, but it just makes more sense to use the Passive Voice. Good luck with your practice.
Practice what you’ve learned with the exercises!
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- The present Continuous
- Remember vs Remind
- Much, Many, Few, Little
- Tail Questions — Part II
- Using ‘Should’ for the Past and Future
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