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View Full Version : There’s No Such Thing as a Passive Verb



Mark Lazer
07-25-2006, 12:06 PM
I found quite an interesting essay written by Craig Clevenger, I think it's worth reading this: http://www.craigclevenger.com/?p=44

rekirts
07-25-2006, 06:45 PM
Thanks for that link. I don't know how often I've seen crits of people's work in which the critter says, too much passive voice, when in fact there is little to none. Whatever the problem with the story is, the critter is attributing the wrong reason to it. Maybe it's too slow moving. Maybe there aren't enough strong verbs, but that doesn't make it passive voice.

Jamesaritchie
07-25-2006, 09:28 PM
I found quite an interesting essay written by Craig Clevenger, I think it's worth reading this: http://www.craigclevenger.com/?p=44


Well, there are passive verb forms, but it's true that a passive verb form is not the same thing as passive voice. Too many critiquers see the word "was," and cry passive sentence.

Medievalist
07-25-2006, 09:35 PM
I wish people wouldn't condemn passive completely; sometimes, passive voice is exactly what a writer needs to use.

arrowqueen
07-25-2006, 11:48 PM
Not to mention small children who have just smashed your heirloom crystal:

'Mummy, the vase got broken.'

Jamesaritchie
07-26-2006, 01:35 AM
I wish people wouldn't condemn passive completely; sometimes, passive voice is exactly what a writer needs to use.

I agree. Sometimes passive is the best choice. The problem comes when a writer doesn't know the difference between active and passive. When you don't know the difference, when you can't look at a sentence and tell which it is, using one or the other isn't a choice, so you're going to use passive when it should be active, and active when it should be passive.

Medievalist
07-26-2006, 01:48 AM
Not to mention small children who have just smashed your heirloom crystal:

'Mummy, the vase got broken.'

Now, what you really want then, as my older brother painstakingly explained to me, is the passive and the subjunctive:

'Mummy, the vase may have been broken.'

This implies that not only was it a spontaneous event, it might not have happened at all ;)

reph
07-26-2006, 03:15 AM
Lisa, that isn't subjunctive. Subjunctive and passive would go like this: "Mommy, were the vase to have been broken, what would you do?"

Medievalist
07-26-2006, 03:33 AM
Reph

That's what modern grammar calls modal subjuctive, which in the early sixties was called auxilliary subjuntive, and sometimes still is. I realize you're using the older definition, but both constructions use the subjunctive mood.

reph
07-26-2006, 09:19 AM
Why did the terminology change? The old categories worked. I don't wonder that people get confused about subjunctive if grammar books don't agree on what it is.

Medievalist
07-26-2006, 09:24 AM
Reph terminology changes; pick up a medieval grammar and it too will be different.

Part of the reason is that "traditional grammar" is based on Latin, not on English, part of the reason was that grammarians slowly shifted from grammar as prescriptive to the way that linguists used grammar, that is to describe the reality of language, and, the most recent change, because English grammarians started actually studyng linguistics.

If you took graduate level grammar courses even in the 1950s it wasn't as clear-cut as many people would have liked it to be.

Even in the 1926 edition of Fowler, he begins his discussion by saying he isn't going to talk about modal / auxilliary subjunctives.

You'd love Old English; there's a subjunctive suffix.