In an active sentence, the person or thing responsible for the action in the sentence comes first. My mother was hit by a taxi (the mother is the topic, and the taxi is the focus). Is “was” accompanied by the past participle form of a verb (an -ed ending or an irregular past tense form: eaten, scattered, stolen, signed, etc. A teacher was she. Here, in contrast to the examples above, passive constructions may in fact serve to place emphasis on the agent, since it is natural for information being emphasized to come at the end: In more technical terms, such uses can be expected in sentences where the agent is the focus (comment, rheme), while the patient (the undergoer of the action) is the topic or theme[8] (see Topic–comment). Other verbs mentioned (besides attempt) with which the construction is found include begin, desire, hope, propose, seek and threaten. ", "The Columbia Guide to Standard American English", "Active resistance: What we get wrong about the passive voice", Address to Massachusetts legislature (Jan. 9, 1961), "Preposition stranding, passivisation, and extraction from adjuncts in Germanic", Language Log: How to defend yourself from bad advice about writing,,, "The House is Building"? These can be used in such contexts as newspaper headlines: and as modifiers (adverbial phrases), i.e. I’ve read too many posts by writers trying to explain passive voice who get that wrong. Any site entered here will be publicly visible and linked to the name entered above. This may be called the prepositional passive, or sometimes the pseudopassive[31] (although the latter term can also have other meanings, such as being equivalent to the impersonal passive voice,[32] particularly in descriptions of other languages). Last time, we talked about the past perfect verb tense and how it helps us indicate to readers that a story event happened before the past tense of our novel. This is particularly the case with sentences containing content clauses (usually that-clauses). Passive voice sentences are also more wishy-washy (which is why they’re so commonly used by politicians). [34], Some passive constructions are not derived exactly from a corresponding active construction in the ways described above. the past perfect verb tense and how it helps us indicate to readers that a story event happened, another verb tense that often causes issues. As long as we have a reason for writing in passive voice, we’re allowed to do so. [12] In 1916, the British writer Arthur Quiller-Couch criticized this grammatical voice: Generally, use transitive verbs, that strike their object; and use them in the active voice, eschewing the stationary passive, with its little auxiliary its’s and was’s, and its participles getting into the light of your adjectives, which should be few. You shouldn't have done that. So, yes, words like was, were, and had been are often a clue, but not always. While they don’t create the most exciting sentences, sometimes they’re what makes sense for the information we want readers to know. It is not usually possible to promote a prepositional object if the verb also has a direct object; any passive rendering of the sentence must instead promote the direct object. ), The concealed passive (with an -ing form) can also be used in a complex construction; Huddleston gives the following example:[38]. In the passive form here, the preposition is "stranded"; that is, it is not followed by an object.