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Passive Voice

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Michael Farmer

on 16 June 2014

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Transcript of Passive Voice

Passive Voice
Passive Voice
I would like to take some time to discuss the passive voice and help you to understand how it functions in Latin and English.
So, what about Latin
Latin has a unique set of endings for the present system for passive verbs. You will need to learn them, but they complement the endings you know for active: r, ris, tur, mur, mini, ntur (active: o/m, s, t, mus, tis, nt)
That's not what passive voice is actually doing.
Passive voice is a little difficult to explain in a short phrase, but there are some terms to learn.

Definition of passive: a verb voice in which the agent does not act as subject - formed with a copula and past participle
The English Passive
Again, we're trying to be a little to simple, here, but this is the basic formation of the English passive:

Subject + copula + past participle

The copula determines the tense.
So, if the agent isn't the subject, how do you know who performed the action of the verb?

This is where the agent form, used with "by" in English, and ab+abl in Latin comes to play.
The agent is the noun/pronoun whatever that is actually doing the verb's action. Agent derives from the Latin verb ago, agere - to do. So, the agent is literally the doer.

Agency is the quality of being the agent.
In English, the verb be is referred to as the copula. is, are, am, was, were, etc. It is sometimes called the helping verb or auxiliary, but here I will be referring to it as copula.
English Verb Forms: Participle
English verbs have four different forms:
-present - give(s)
-gerund (present participle) - giving
-preterite - gave
-past participle - given
Often the preterite and past participle are the same (carry (carries)/carrying/carried/carried).

Examples - notice, "I" am not doing the action!
I am carried. - I = subj; am = copula; carried = past participle. This is present tense.

I was carried. - now, the copula is past, so this a past tense form of the passive. Notice, the subject and participle didn't change, just the copula!
Examples of agency
I was taken hostage by pirates. - If this were active, the sentence would read: Pirates took me hostage.

The war was started by the Germans. - The Germans started the war.
When you hear "passive" is this what you think of:
A passive person, getting pushed around?
Perfect System
The perfect system is a little bit like English, in that Latin uses a past participle and a form of the verb be (sum, esse, fui).
The perfect passive participle (PPP) is the 4th principal part (amatus, portatus, etc.).

Perfect: uses PPP + present sum
Past Perfect: uses PPP + imperfect sum
Future perfect: uses PPP + future sum
More about the perfect system
Since the verb form for perfect system passive uses the participle, you need to make sure to have agreement between your subject and participle:
If you have a feminine singular subject, your participle must end with -a: Puella visa est. - The girl has been seen.
Make it feminine plural, and the participle must change too: Puellae visae sunt.
Neuter? Bellum pugatum est. The war was fought.
Agent: Ablative of agent
The doer in a Latin passive clause is rendered by "ab" + ablative. Ab can be abbreviated "a" when before a consonant.
Puella a puero visa est. The girl was seen by the boy.
Bellum ab Germanis pugnatur. The war is fought by the Germans.
Transitioning from active to passive or passive to active.
It's quite easy to turn an active sentence passive or a passive sentence active, since they are just inversions of each other:

I (subj) carry (act verb) water (DO).
Turn the DO into the subj, the subj into the agent and create your English passive form:
The water is carried by me.
More examples
I have been called by my mother.
This is passive, so now, I want to find the agent (look for "by" - mother is agent.
Mother called me.

We were watching television. (television is DO, so will be subj of passive clause):
Television was watched by us.
Latin active to passive, or passive to active.
Same as English: look for the DO in an active clause to be the subject of passive, and take the subj and make it abl of agent:
Puella puerum amat. - The girl likes the boy.
Puer a puella (abl) amatur. - The boy is liked by the girl.
Why use passive?
Most English teachers will caution you to avoid passive voice. That's because it's an easy quick rule. However, passive is very useful.
The whole point of the subject in English (or Latin, or any other language) is to highlight a particular noun as the most important. If you make "boy" your subject, you want the reader/listener to pay attention to "boy".

So compare these two sentences:
The girl loves the boy.
The boy is loved by the girl.

Which one emphasizes the boy? The passive clause. Did it hide the agent? No, we still know the girl is the one who loves him, but it puts boy as most important.
Fight the GOOD fight!
Don't be bullied by passive haters! (that's a passive clause, by the way)

Passive has an important role in our language and anyone who argues to avoid it in all circumstances is exaggerating.

Now, don't go trying to put passives everywhere - your English teacher will be greatly annoyed (passive again)! There are a lot of people who will challenge my view, so follow your teacher's guidelines!!! - you know, the one who gives out your grades!
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