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It's not a matter of opinion, or a hazy feeling of passivity. It's a simple
matter of construction. Basically, the passive is formed from the past
tense of a verb plus a form of "to be". The actor is either clearly stated
in a phrase beginning with "by" or is unknown, making the reader wonder "by
The ball was thrown by John.
The computer was stolen.
The file was eaten by the computer.
The tickets were lost.
The dialog boxis displayed.
John threw the ball.
Thugs stole the computer.
The computer ate my file.
Mary lost the tickets.
The dialog box appears.
(Well, it *is* magic, isn't it? :-)
From: Ward Rosenberry [mailto:wardr -at- world -dot- std -dot- com]
Sent: Wednesday, November 15, 2000 12:29 PM
Subject: RE: Hocus Pocus
> Sorry to be so pedantic, but this is a pet peeve of mine. Whoever
> thought up the terms "active voice" and "passive voice" should be
> shot! These terms seduce people into thinking that the distinction is
> a hazy semantic one and that it might be a matter of opinion whether a
> sentence is active or passive. But the distinction is actually
> objectively defined. I don't *think* whether or not a given sentence
> is passive voice is *ever* a matter of opinion anymore than whether
> 2+2 equals 4.
I think of active / passive as the subject is acting (active) or is
acted upon (passive) as in:
John threw the ball. (Active)
John was thrown. (Passive)
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