Using the Passive Voice: (Part 2)

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1 Success Center Directed Learning Activity (DLA) Using the Passive Voice: (Part 2) G020.1

2 Directed Learning Activity Using the Passive Voice (Part Two) Description: In this Directed Learning Activity (DLA), you will deepen your understanding of the passive voice by learning when to use it. You will also be learning about passive modals and participial adjectives. Prior Knowledge: To get the most out of this DLA, you should complete the DLA Using the Passive Voice (Part One). In addition, you should be familiar with the use of modal auxiliaries like may, might, must, can, or could. Step One: Understanding When to Use the Passive Voice Now that you understand the difference between an active sentence and a passive sentence, you may be asking, When should I use the passive voice? The key thing to remember is that active sentences emphasize the performer of the action while passive sentences emphasize the receiver of the action. Active Sentence Passive Sentence Performer The man kicked the ball. (emphasis on the man) Receiver The ball was kicked. (emphasis on the ball) voice. If the receiver of the action is what you want to emphasize, you should use the passive For example, read the following mini-paragraph:. He has been a little depressed about it, so we ve been visiting him more often. I hope he is able to find another job soon. Which of these two sentences would you put in the blank? (a) A company laid off my grandfather last week. (b) My grandfather was laid off last week.

3 Most people would choose the passive sentence, (b). Why? What are the sentences emphasizing? They are emphasizing the fact that your grandfather has been a little depressed and that you hope he is able to find another job soon. There is nothing said about the company. Since the passive sentence emphasizes your grandfather by placing him first (as the receiver of the action laid off), passive is the better choice here. To get a little practice with this idea, read the following mini-paragraphs. Below each paragraph is a pair of words. First, circle the words that are being emphasized in the paragraph. Then, decide whether the active sentence, (a), or the passive sentence, (b), belongs in the blank. The sentence you choose should be the one that has the emphasized word first. The first one has been done for you. 1. My cat is a great hunter. He spends all day in my yard sitting and waiting.. Emphasis: My cat A bird (a) Yesterday, my cat caught a bird. (b) Yesterday, a bird was caught by my cat. Because the cat is emphasized, the active sentence, (a), which places my cat first, is the better choice. 2.. Now I have to call Verizon and tell them my phone is gone. Also, I m upset because all of my personal information was on my phone! Emphasis: A thief My cell phone (a) A thief stole my cell phone last night. (b) My cell phone was stolen last night. 3. Erlinda and I had a good time at the mall. We went shopping at her favorite clothing store.. Emphasis: Erlinda and I The cashier (a) We talked to the cashier for a while. (b) The cashier was talked to by us for a while.

4 4. Monday was a pretty bad day for me. I was late for work. At lunch, I got the wrong food.. Emphasis: The police officer I (a) Finally, a police officer gave me a ticket. (b) Finally, I was given a ticket. Step Two: Learning More About Specific Situations in Which to Use the Passive Voice As you ve learned, we use the passive voice when we want to emphasize the receiver of the action instead of the performer. Let s look at a number of specific situations in which this often occurs: When we don t know who did the action; When it isn t important who did the action; To avoid saying who did the action; or To connect ideas in our writing. When we don t know who performed the action: For whatever reason, sometimes we simply don t know who performed the action. We often use passive tense when this occurs. For example, instead of saying that Someone has broken the window, we often say, The window has been broken. Here are some other examples: o A pair of shoes has been left in the dryer. o The clock was broken years ago. o An anonymous donation has been made. o The song was composed in the 17 th century, but we don t know who wrote it. When it isn t important who did the action: Sometimes, the performer of the action just isn t important for the sentence. This is often because it is so obvious who performed the action that it isn t worth mentioning. For example, Painters painted the building in 2000 is obvious and redundant. The passive sentence, The building was painted in 2000, is used instead. Even when the performer isn t easily known, it just may not be important for the sentence. My watch was built to last a long time is stated passively because it isn t important who actually built the watch. The point of the sentence is that the watch is well made. Here are some other examples: o She was given medical attention at the scene of the accident.

5 o He was arrested after a high-speed chase. o The mayor was taken to the hospital last night. o The missing boy was returned to his parents. To avoid saying who did the action: Passive can be used as a way of being indirect. For example, compare the following two sentences: (a) I laid off 20 workers last week. (b) 20 workers were laid off last week. Which would you rather say? Notice that in the passive sentence, (b), you can avoid saying who actually laid off all those people. While people probably still know who laid off whom, the passive sentence moves the emphasis from I to the 20 workers whom were laid off. Stating the facts in this way often sounds less like an accusation. Here are some more examples: o Mistakes were made. o Many people were killed during the war. o You will be evicted if you can t pay the rent. o He was punished for chewing gum in class. To connect ideas in our paragraphs: Another reason to use the passive voice is to make your paragraphs flow better. For example, compare the following sentence groups: (a) The city needs to install a new traffic light. If the city installs this light, many lives will be saved. (b) The city needs to install a new traffic light. If this light is installed, many lives will be saved. Notice that in (b) this light is closer to new traffic light. Their closeness ties the two ideas together because the reader is immediately reminded of the first idea when reading the second. Also, the rhythm of the sentences in (b) has more variety because of the switch to passive. The closeness and the variety both create coherence, which makes a series of ideas easy to read. Here are a few more examples: o Last Christmas, he spent a lot of time with his brother s children, who were given lots of gifts. o Anne would like to solve the problem if it can be solved. o Jimbo almost hurt himself putting up the decorations. Since they have been put up, he can relax.

6 To practice your understanding of these ideas, read each of the following sentences. Decide why each sentence was written in the passive tense. Write your explanation in the blank below the sentence. Be prepared to discuss your answers with a tutor or an instructor. There may be more than one possible answer. The first one has been done for you. 1. My wallet was returned to the lost and found today. We don t know who returned it. Also, it being returned is the most important part. 2. A firefighter was shot during the riot. 3. The electricity to your home will be shut off if you don t pay your bill. 4. An anonymous note was left on our doorstep. 5. He took the kitten home because it had been abandoned. 6. The lost hikers have been found! 7. Many problems had to be dealt with when they came to visit. Step Three: Using Passive Modals Modals are expressions that use helping verbs like should, will, may, must, can, or could. These verbs also have passive forms. Charlie The song Your assignment The problem Chicken tetrazzini REGULAR PASSIVE FORM modal + be + past participle will be hired might be played must be completed should be solved can be made by a big company. tonight. by Wednesday. soon. at the restaurant.

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8 Performer The dog is frightening the boy. In this sentence, the subject (dog) performs the action (frighten). The dog is using the verb actively. Because the meaning is active, the present participle (frightening) is used to describe the dog. On the other hand, if we were to write a passive sentence... Receiver The boy is frightened by the dog. The subject (boy) receives the action (frighten). The boy is using the verb passively. Because it is passive, the past participle (frightened) is used to describe the boy. Thus: Frightening Frightened When performing the action, the present participle (-ing) form of a verb is sometimes used as an adjective. When receiving the action, the past participle (-ed) is sometimes used. Here is a list of commonly used words with active (-ing) and passive (-ed) adjectival meanings: Amaze Annoy Bore Challenge Confuse Damage Depress Disappoint Divide Embarrass Excite Exhaust Expect Frustrate Injure Interest Marry Miss Pollute Print Relax Satisfy Shock Surprise Terrify Thrill Tire

9 Let s look at a few more examples. Does a factory perform pollution or receive it? It performs it; therefore, a factory is polluting. Does a storm perform damage or receive it? It performs it; therefore, a storm is damaging. Does a river perform pollution or receive it? It receives it; therefore, a river is polluted. Does a house perform damage or receive it? It receives it; therefore, a house is damaged. Decide whether the following words perform the action or receive it. Then, circle the adjective form that goes with the word. The first one has been done for you. Does a hat perform embarrassment or receive it? Is a hat embarrassing or embarrassed? Embarrassing Embarrassed Does a job perform frustration or receive it? Is a job frustrating or frustrated? Frustrating Frustrated Does a customer perform satisfaction or receive it? Is a customer satisfying or satisfied? Satisfying Satisfied Practice using participial adjectives further by doing the exercises below. First, decide whether the underlined word performs the action in parentheses or receives the

10 action. Then, write the present participle (-ing form) in the blank if the underlined word performs the action or the past participle (-ed form) if it receives the action. The first one has been done for you. bored 1. My friend feels (bore) sometimes. 2. That class is really (bore). 3. The students are very (confuse). They need help. 4. The job is very (challenge), but I ll succeed there. 5. The movie was pretty (disappoint). 6. The actress said some (surprise) things. 7. The work is (exhaust) but pays well. 8. My wife is (expect). Our baby will come soon. 9. She is (amaze) at how long that took. 10. The cat is (terrify) by loud noises.

11 G020.1 Using the Passive Voice (Part 2) PRINT STUDENT NAME STUDENT # Tutor Feedback: For Step One, the student completed the exercises and understands that a passive sentence is used when the receiver of the action is emphasized. For Step Two, the student completed the exercises and can explain why the passive voice is used in each of the sentences. In Step Three, the student completed the exercises on passive modals. In Step Four, the student completed the exercises on participial adjectives. Additional Comments: PRINT INSTRUCTOR/TUTOR NAME DATE INSTRUCTOR/TUTOR SIGNATURE STUDENT DO NOT FORGET TO TURN THIS SHEET IN AT THE FRONT DESK! You may not get credit for completing this DLA if you fail to leave this sheet with the front desk receptionist.

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