More uses of the passive
We’ve previously seen the structure of the passive and we’ve seen examples of the passive in different tenses. We also saw that we can use the passive in situations;
- when we don’t know the agent (who or what performs the action) of an action
- or if the agent isn’t important.
There is another reason for using the passive. In English (and other languages) it’s common to structure sentences to include new information close to the end of a sentence. Let’s look at this idea in two active sentences.
Active sentence: I performed a flight last week in a Cessna 172.
So ‘a flight last week in a Cessna 172’ is the new information so we naturally place it towards the end of the sentence. Let’s continue this ‘text’.
Active sentence: It’s a fantastic plane.
Again, ‘a fantastic plane’ gives us new information, the speaker’s opinion about the plane. So we see that because of the tendency to place new information at the end of a sentence, we generally use active sentences. However, we may also need to use the passive to place new information at the end of the sentence.
Let’s imagine our conversation again;
I performed a flight last week in a 172. It’s made by Cessna.
In this situation the desire to position new information at the end of the sentence meant that the passive was necessary in our second sentence (It’s made by Cessna). Placing this new information towards the end of the sentence also puts more of a focus on it.
When we put ‘by Cessna’ at the end of our example sentence we are putting the focus on it.
Let’s look at another example.
The log book was removed by John.
Here, we want to focus on the fact that it was ‘removed by John’ so we use the passive to move that information towards the end of the sentence and put the focus on it.
Try to think of some other situations yourself and write some examples. Don’t worry if you don’t alway need to use the passive, focus on the idea of adding new information towards the end of a sentence.