Passive Voice Day 2012

It has again been decided that April 27th will be passive voice day. Fun will be had by everybody as the passive voice is used for tweets, blogs, and casual conversation. The active voice will be frowned upon. The hashtag #passivevoiceday should be used when passive voice is used in social media, so the fun can be shared by all.

Why is this being done? Simple. It’s considered fun. No point is being made. It’s just enjoyed when things are taken to an absurd extreme.

It is hoped we will be joined by you, and that the word will be spread to everybody known.

37 thoughts on “Passive Voice Day 2012”

  1. This day raises the challenge level significantly for E-Prime users, though it remains possible.

    (As opposed to: E-Prime users find this challenging, but possible.)

    1. I hope you’re aware that there isn’t a single example of the passive voice in your response. “This raises the challenge” is indeed active voice.

    2. “This day raises the possibility” is in the active voice. You might want to visit language log to learn the difference.

  2. “… April 27th will be [proclaimed] passive voice day …”?

  3. Should that be “April 27th will be recognized/observed as passive voice day”? Is “will be” passive all by its lonesome?

  4. Geoff Pullum praised your grammatical knowledge at .

  5. The author of the above comment seems to have gotten confused. “This day raises the challenge level…” and “…it remains possible.” both exemplify active voice. Stuffy, yes. Passive, no. The only way the passive in E’ can get used is if the colloquial substitution of “to get” for “to be” gets resorted to. Which would get objected to by many people.

    1. Literal passive voice gets used rarely in E-Prime by nature (only when sentences get literally translated via substitution of another word for “to be”). Nonetheless, passive-feeling sentences remain common in simplistic usage, and awkwardness increases greatly with the use of such sentences. Subjects commonly appear in such sentences near the middle or end, and objects near the beginning. Indirection gets applied to verbs, and nounification of verbs occurs frequently. Painful reading ensues.

      (Self-describing example, intentionally bad.)

  6. Although OP has been greatly lauded by Language Log, continuing ignorance about the definition of “passive” was immediatedly displayed in the comments. Sadly, no actual passive clauses were used by the first commenter (if “as opposed to” is excepted).

  7. No passive voice has been provided by the first comment by Anonymous. “This day” is the subject, “raises the challenge level” is the predicate, and “for E-Prime users” just adds additional info.

    As has been noted by Language Log bloggers, “passive voice” is too often used to refer to a sentence that obscures agency but is actually in the active voice. “Shots were fired” and “mistakes were made” are in passive voice AND refuse to tell you who did something. “Shots rang out” and “mistakes arose” are active and agentless.

    1. Readers of these comments, particularly language pedants, would get value out of reading . Clearer English gets written not just when passive voice gets eliminated, but also when passive, agentless sentences get minimized. Thus, those that get enjoyment out of grammatical constructs getting used universally that would preferably get eliminated, would get value out of slightly broader interpretations of “passive” which can get abused on this day. Nonetheless, those getting annoyed by non-literal interpretations of “passive” may get joy from this paragraph, through which the point has hopefully gotten thoroughly proven. (And in the last sentence, the use of split infinitives in E-Prime has likewise gotten demonstrated.)

      1. Well, Anonymous, the difference between “passive voice” and “Passive, agentless sentences” (as they are labelled by you) must be maintained, especially as no fault is necessarily to be found in the use of the passive voice. Neither clarity nor content is sacrificed in the passive, and beautiful sentences can be constructed this way, too!

      2. I’m lost. You mix a bunch of passives like “get written” and “get eliminated” with non-passive uses of the word “get” like “get value” and “get enjoyment.” The only linguistic through line to your comment is the repeated use of the word “get.”

        It also doesn’t adhere to a broader definition of “passive” either. “Readers of these comments, particularly language pedants, would get value out of…” isn’t agentless at all.

      3. ‘Get’ is used repeatedly in a manner by which my ear is offended, and no split infinitive is contained in the final sentence.

      4. OK, the page in that link makes a distinction (oops! I meant “A distinction is made on that page…”) between the “passive voice” and some vaguely defined “passive sentence.” Shawnm’s post explicitly discusses the passive voice, making no mention of any “passive sentence.” So what relevance do your “passive sentences” have to this discussion? What you dismiss as the work of pedants is what I call understanding what is being discussed.

    2. You don’t have to think e-prime is a good idea (I do not) but folks might want to at least look it up before accusing Anonymous of not getting the passive.

  8. I will be sending copies of this email to all my passive-language friends. We will discuss the topic and maybe we will find something about the content that might be worth participating in on this date. We will see.

    1. Three sentences, all in the active voice, were written by Jill St. Passive.

  9. You are thanked. Many smart-mouth types will be delighted to have this sort of opportunity handed to them, and their friends will be bemused until the occasion is disclosed…

  10. It is believed by many that students are not helped by grammar instruction, but style advice is often ignored when it is presented without a framework for interpretation. Students are confused when only prescriptive rules are taught, because they haven’t been given any instruction on grammar as a system. Without such a framework, even the useful prescriptive rules are blindly and haphazardly followed, students are frustrated, and poor writing is produced.

    When grammar knowledge is systematically presented, students’ metalinguistic knowledge is raised. Subsequently, their writing is often improved, since the style advice can then be processed.

    Your contribution this issue is greatly appreciated. Students shouldn’t be made to feel inferior for something that has never been properly taught.

  11. My curiosity was piqued by this question: May unaccusative constructions be used today? That is, can the agent position be removed not by morphology, but by its own optionality? I would also be pleased if some guidance could be given to us on the use of the dative alternation. I am also disturbed by experiencer verbs in this context.

  12. I have decided that this passive voice/active voice drivel is a load of bollocks.

  13. I am to be corrected if wrong is what I am.
    Terribly challenging is what this is.
    Does speaking like Yoda sound like what I am doing?

  14. Sadness is felt by me, which is due to the fact that my discovery of this page was not made until today.

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This work by Shaun McCance is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States.