Using the passive form

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Tobazzone

New Member
Italian
Hello,
I want to understand how to use the passive form properly, because I want to use it to write formally.

- Companies like Airbus and Boeing were discovered that their efficiency was increased almost the 30% in the last five years.

- Companies like Airbus and Boeing discovered that their efficiency increased almost the 30% in the last five years.

Which one of the two sentence are corrector or more formal?

Thanks

Tob
 
  • heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The second sentence would be correct if you omit the 'the': "Companies like Airbus and Boeing discovered that their efficiency increased almost the 30% in the last five years." But it's not in the passive.


    As an aside, 'corrector' doesn't exist as a word. Something is either correct or it isn't.
     
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    Frusen

    Member
    English - BrE
    I want to understand how to use the passive form properly, because I want to use it to write formally.

    - Companies like Airbus and Boeing were discovered that their efficiency was increased almost the 30% in the last five years.

    Tob
    I get why it doesn't work! You have two objects, the companies, and efficiency. Instead you must link the two ideas together with 'of', to make just one object (someone correct me if I'm wrong please!)

    The formation of the passive is correct, but it is the possessive pronoun which makes it hard to read. Instead, I propose that you use the genitive with an impersonal pronoun - it.

    -- It was discovered that the efficiency of companies, like Airbus and Boeing, (had) increased (by) almost 30% in the last five years.

    With regards to formality, generally just make the sentence longer, such as including the words I have bracketed.
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    -- It was discovered that the efficiency of companies, like Airbus and Boeing, (had) increased (by) almost 30% in the last five years.

    With regards to formality, generally just make the sentence longer, such as including the words I have bracketed.

    Personally, I would omit the two commas as I think the meaning of the original sentence would then be preserved more accurately:

    'It was discovered that the efficiency of companies like Airbus and Boeing had increased by almost 30% in the last five years'.

    Sentences like this - in the passive - are rarely a better option than their equivalent active versions.
     

    Frusen

    Member
    English - BrE
    Yeah, I suppose omitting the commas is more appropriate due to that the effiency is restriced to two companies. Of course, if effiency is relating to all companies, whereby Airbus and Boeing are just examples, then the sentence would be better with them.

    And yes, I agree with you last statement. The passive is only really used to express the action itself.
    -The dog chased the ball
    ---There was a dog and a ball /story
    -The ball was chased by the dog
    ---There was a ball and a suprising event occured upon it (being chased).
    To me, the passive expresses no more formality than had the sentence been produced in the active.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Here is a method to find the passive, given the active:

    Active: Companies like Airbus and Boeing discovered that their efficiency increased by almost 30% in the last five years.

    A =
    Companies like Airbus and Boeing
    B =
    that their efficiency increased by almost 30% in the last five years.

    Active: A
    discovered B

    Converting to passive gives:

    Passive: B
    was discovered by A

    Expand A and B

    Passive: That their efficiency increased by almost 30% in the last five years was discovered by companies like Airbus and Boeing. :tick:

    The above is grammatically correct and understandable but rather clumsy. For this reason we replace the first part of the sentence by "it". We then add the full first part to the end to explan what "it" stands for.

    It
    was discovered by companies like Airbus and Boeing (that their efficiency increased by almost 30% in the last five years)


    The above may sound complicated but most literate native English speakers perform it without thinking. The key is (a) to be fluent with forming the passive in simple sentences (b) to understand the function of "it" when forming the passive with long, complicated sentences.
     
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    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    To me, the passive expresses no more formality than had the sentence been produced in the active.
    The passive is used in formal writing to remove the subject of the sentence.
    "I performed the experiment." This is a sentence about me and what I did. It is personal and therefore not as formal as it could be.
    "The experiment was performed." This is a sentence about the experiment. It is all business.
    (By the way, did you notice that "than had the sentence been produced in the active" is the passive form of "than had I produced the sentence in the active"?)
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Perhaps it's because it is all business that the passive is often so bland.

    And it very often removes a lot of responsibility for the action concerned. "It was decided that train fares should rise" lets the actual decision makers off the hook in a way that "The directors decided that train fares should rise" doesn't.
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    Using passive to remove the personal, as described by Myridon, is fine - that is exactly what passive is for. But here it wouldn't remove the personal because Airbus and Boeing aren't writing this. Instead, it would replace all action with action once removed. Instead of "Airbus and Boeing discovered," it becomes "It was discovered." How is the second more formal than the first?

    Well, it isn't. This is an unnecessary use of the passive voice. Here passive doesn't make it more formal - it just makes it more bland.

    But to get back to the original question, with Heypresto's correction your second sentence is fine, Tobazzone.
     
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    Frusen

    Member
    English - BrE
    The passive is used in formal writing to remove the subject of the sentence.

    (By the way, did you notice that "than had the sentence been produced in the active" is the passive form of "than had I produced the sentence in the active"?)
    I used the passive because I wasn't simply refering to my sentence, but sentences in general. To me, sentences which are formed in the passive are no more formal than those formed in the active. I intentionally wish to omit the passive agent because then it isn't bound to a person (yet another use of the passive :L)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    To me, sentences which are formed in the passive are no more formal than those formed in the active. I intentionally wish to omit the passive agent because then it isn't bound to a person (yet another use of the passive :L)
    By doing that you made it not about you, but a general case. Speaking about the general case is more formal that speaking about specific cases.
    I think the problem, then, is with your concept of what is "formal" versus "informal" language. If you think apples taste like oranges, adding more apple doesn't increase the flavor of apple for you, but it does for the rest of us. :)
     

    Frusen

    Member
    English - BrE
    The sentence is considered more formal because it's less subjective, yes.
    But if many birds have died then I'm not going to say "I've killed many birds" but rather (as I said before) "many birds have died". Of course, I could add passive agents, such as "by hunters/poison" which wouldn't make it any more nor less formal.


    And sorry, but I don't get the apple analogy :(.
     
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