Re: active vs. passive

Subject: Re: active vs. passive
From: "Peter Neilson" <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com, "David Artman" <david -at- davidartman -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 08 Aug 2017 16:44:13 -0400

It's the reflexive. Quoting from some anonymous authority I just found on a Google lookup, "The French passive reflexive is used in place of the passive voice in order to avoid naming the agent of a verb. The passive reflexive is formed with a noun or pronoun, then the reflexive pronoun se, and finally the appropriate verb conjugation (third person singular or plural)."

The same construction apparently occurs in other languages. I've seen it in Spanish.

Curiously, the active-passive-reflexive issue is much deeper than one might think. Greek and Sanskrit have the "middle" voice. Latin and even English have it by extension. My own example of "middle voice" in English would be in the sentence, "This horse drives well." The horse is not DOING the driving, so the words are not truly active voice. Instead, he is being driven, but he performs well the actions one expects of a horse in harness to a carriage. Specifically, the horse knows well the walk, the trot and the halt, all to vocal command; knows how to stand without moving even an inch; is not terrified of anything; and is in good enough condition to work for 20 or 30 miles or more without complaint. All that meaning in four little words!

Here is a reference for your delight or sorrow: http://www.livelatin.org/grammar/verbs-voices.html

On Tue, 08 Aug 2017 16:17:27 -0400, David Artman <david -at- davidartman -dot- com> wrote:

My French is rusty, but doesn't your quoted sentence translate to "If the
directory does not exist, it will create itself automatically"?


If that is an accurate translations, then it is almost certainly poor style,
because file structures do not create themselves. Applications--often but not
always running in desktop environment software like Windows and GNOME--trigger
disk operation that the operating system (kernel and/or hardware abstraction
layer) executes to modify a logical disk's directory structure, add files to it,
overwrite files on it, or remove files from it.


Or am I being too literal with my merely-college-level memory of highly-formal French? :^)

David

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: active vs. passive
From: "Peter Neilson" <neilson -at- windstream -dot- net>
Date: Tue, August 08, 2017 10:27 am
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

In French and Spanish, and probably Italian and other languages, one might
use the reflexive: "Si le rÃpertoire n'existe pas, il se crÃe
automatiquement". N'est-ce pas?

On Tue, 08 Aug 2017 09:15:17 -0400, Slager Timothy J
<Timothy -dot- Slager -at- dematic -dot- com> wrote:

Don't use passive voice is a good rule, but when using it makes the
sentence more succinct without sacrificing clarity, use it.

I wouldn't write "the directory will be created." But even worse is "the
system will create the directory." "System" as subject adds no meaning.
If I'm not mistaken the original was trying not to use future tense,
another rule of thumb. In this case, it's one I would follow: "If the
specified output directory does not exist, it is created automatically."

I'm not sure why, but in software documentation, this sort of future
tense is everywhere, and it can be confusing. "Will be" when? "Is" =
immediately. Maybe "is" has more smack than "will be" too; I don't know.
But here it adds clarity.
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References:
RE: active vs. passive: From: David Artman

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