Sunday, October 14, 2012

That Darn Passive Voice...

-4 Brushstrokes: painting with participles, absolutes, appositives, adjectives out of order
transitive verb in passive voice,  T.V. in active voice

This week, in 326, was a little more difficult than it has been. We had to find transitive verbs in the passive and active voice written in articles or journals. The active voice was found more frequently.  However, students struggled with the passive voice. Remembering that voice only applies to S-V-O transitive verbs, students often called Barbara over to check a sentence and were disappointed when it was incorrect.
“Oh! I think I found a passive voice! (Leans toward peer at the same table) Is this one?”
The other student’s eyebrows shoot up across their forehead, eyes wide, shoulders shift up and down, “I don’t know.”
First student calls over the professor and asks about her passive voice.
“No that’s not correct because…”
The student slumps in her seat, with a defeated look, ready to give up.
The form of a be-verb plus a past participle creates a passive voice. It seems pretty simple, but when applying it to writing, and trying to point it out in others’ writing, it is challenging. For the most part, the students finally caught the hang of it, but did not leave with absolutely solid confidence. Sentence highlighted, question marks written, shoulders shrugged, the students’ minds were semi-confused. The brushstrokes became a piece of pie though. Spotting those in someone’s writing was a lot simpler. Perhaps the fact that it was Thursday of a long week attributed to the struggle with passive voice. But I believe it cannot be blamed on that fact fully. The concept was just difficult for most of the students. Writing sentences with a passive voice and active voice are easier than finding them though.
The car was driven.
John drove the car.
When the sentences are longer, and meshed into a longer piece of writing, it is more complicated to instantly point out the two different voices.

It will be a challenge to teach all these different sentence styles and tools to future students, without scaring them away from writing. Obviously we wouldn’t teach them all of these at once, and they wouldn’t be the main point like they are in this course, because it is meant for us to learn all of them in order to help us incorporate them into our teaching of English and writing. Our students, a young group of beginning writers, would be overwhelmed if we shoved all of this information at them. They would sit in their seats, confused and hopeless, and probably hate school, especially English class.


  1. I love your blog, and I agree that these concepts are probably going to be pretty difficult to teach our students. It looks to me like you did all the brushstrokes perfectly. My confusion is when you give the example of "The car was driven"(as active voice) and "John drove the car"(as passive voice). I may be wrong, but it seems like you switched these two around. I would think "The car was driven" would be passive voice because there is not an agent (whose driving the car?). I am still learning like you, so I may be incorrect, but those were my thoughts!! Great blog all together!

  2. I agree that teaching these subjects will be difficult in the future when we ourselves are having our own issues, and we're English majors. I will say I have not covered passive and active voice much in my school career so hopefully as teachers we can introduce this topic to our students earlier on. I am an English major and enjoy writing and this is the first time I have spent and extensive amount of time on this subject. I do think however that it is an important subject and I hope I can accurately convey the message to my future students and introduce them to the subject earlier on. In grade school a majority of my English classes were, well they were crap. Many of the things we are working on in class are newer to me so I hope that I can introduce my students to many different grammar rules and techniques which will certainly help them with their writing as they move on to college.

  3. Oops! I accidentally highlighted them wrong! Sorry about that! I meant the first one to be passive, then active (for the car sentences). Thanks for pointing that out Brittanie.

  4. fabulous blog, Chelsea. Actually, the brush strokes themselves are very teachable, according to everyone I know who has tried to do them with their students. (Okay--that's not a lot of people...). As for voice: you won't really have to teach the concept of voice; I'm going to show you guys another way to talk about this issue this week.
    Stay tuned!