福建36选7胆拖投注方式: 福建36选7第18123期

The 'By-phrase' and the Passive Voice

時間:2019-06-04 22:44來源:互聯網 提供網友:nan   字體: [ ]

福建36选7第18123期 www.pysue.com  

In a famous scene in the American film Clerks, two of the characters have a disagreement. They debate which “Star Wars” film is the best.

"Empire had the better ending. I mean, Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out Vader's his father, Han gets frozen1 and taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such a down note. I mean, that's what life is, a series of down endings.”

You just heard an example of the passive2 voice: “Han gets frozen and taken away by Boba Fett.”

Today, on Everyday Grammar, we will examine how the passive voice is used in the English language. Specifically3, we will look at how English speakers use the “by-passive” or a “by-phrase” to show who did what.

First, let’s talk about some definitions4.

The “by-passive” and the “by-phrase”

Passive sentences usually do not say who the agent is. The agent is often a person, but it could also be a group of people or even an organization. In any event, passive sentences generally do not make it clear who is doing an action.

Consider this situation. Imagine you leave your bicycle somewhere. You return later to get the bicycle and continue your trip, but you cannot find it. Then someone tells you, “Your bike was stolen.”

Here, the identity5 of the person who stole the bike is unknown.

However, sometimes it is important to give the identity of the person, even when using the passive voice. When this is the case, English speakers often use a by-phrase -- the word “by” followed by a noun6 or noun phrase. We call this the “by-passive.”

How would our sentence about the bicycle change if it included a “by-phrase?” Imagine a police officer shows you video camera images of the person stealing your bicycle. The officer might identify the thief by saying the following:

“Your bicycle was stolen by an old woman.”

Now, you might be asking yourself why English speakers would use the passive voice with a by-phrase instead of the active voice. In our example, the officer could have said, “An old woman stole your bicycle.”

The by-passive and active voice have a stylistic difference. But the two sentences have the same basic meaning.

There are several reasons why English speakers use the by-passive instead of the active voice.

Reason #1 – New vs. Old Information

The first reason is that English speakers like to give information in a specific order. English speakers often put “old” information at the beginning of the sentence. The old information relates to people or things that readers or listeners already know about.

English speakers like to put “new” information at the end of the sentence. These additional7 details or facts usually are more important than the “old” information.

So, in our example, the “new” or surprising information is that it was an old woman who stole the bicycle. You already knew about the disappearance8 of the bike when you watched the video. In other words, the bike’s disappearance was “old” information to you.

Reason #2 – The Agent Noun Phrase is Long

The second main reason that English speakers use the by-passive is because the agent noun phrase is long. Consider this example:

“Your bicycle was stolen by an old woman who was wearing a clown costume.”

Here, the phrase, “an old woman who was wearing a clown costume,” is somewhat9 long.

English speakers often choose to use the passive voice instead of the active voice when the agent noun phrase is lengthy10.

If the sentence were in the active voice, it might be something like this: “An old woman who was wearing a clown costume stole your bicycle.”

Once again, in this case, the difference between the active voice and passive voice is about style and emphasis11.

What can you do?

We gave you examples of the by-passive in everyday speech and popular culture. But you should know that the by-passive is probably most common in another kind of communication: academic writing.

Susan Conrad and Douglas Biber are two experts on the English language. They note that the by-passive is especially common with some verbs. Those verbs are special because they identify a kind of information, not a human agent.

Nevertheless, you now have the tools to recognize when an academic writer is using the passive voice. If you read a sentence that starts with “The health of the economy is determined12 by ________,” you should recognize that you are probably dealing13 with the passive voice. You can also probably predict that a noun or noun phrase follows the word “by.”

Understanding this idea will help you identify the passive voice and give you a better chance of understanding the main idea of a passive sentence.

The passive voice is difficult, and you should use it carefully. But looking carefully for clues, such as “by-phrases,” can help you understand when English speakers use it.

And that’s Everyday Grammar.

This story was read by John Russell.

And by Jill Robbins.

Words in This Story

scene – n. a part of a play, movie or story in which an action or activity takes place

character - n. a person who appears in a story, book, play, movie, or television show

bicycle – n. a foot-powered vehicle with two wheels

stylistic - adj. of or relating to a way of doing things

costume - n. the clothes that are worn by someone (such as an actor) who is trying to look like a different person or thing

emphasis - n. special importance or attention given to something

academic – adj. of or related to a school or studies


1 frozen 2sVz6q     
  • He was frozen to death on a snowing night.在一個風雪的晚上,他被凍死了。
  • The weather is cold and the ground is frozen.天寒地凍。
2 passive qLRxb     
  • He has a passive expression on his face.他臉上有一種漠然的表情。
  • It lands the manager in a passive position.它使經理處于被動地位。
3 specifically bvpwo     
  • The book was written specifically for children.這本書是特地為兒童編寫的。
  • I told you specifically not to do that.我明確地告訴你不要那樣做。
4 definitions 9fdc1f6b239f0e86ec8651552f2b0683     
定義( definition的名詞復數 ); 規定; 清晰(度); 解釋
  • Write clear definitions in order to avoid ambiguity. 釋義要寫清楚以免產生歧義。
  • Definitions in this dictionary are printed in roman type. 這本詞典里的釋義是用羅馬體印刷的。
5 identity McFzh     
  • He never revealed his identity.他從未暴露過自己的身份。
  • He showed his identity card and went in.他把工作證亮了一下就進去了。
6 noun JHux3     
  • What kind of noun is this?這是哪類名詞?
  • This word is a collective noun.這個詞是個集體名詞。
7 additional rJTyM     
  • It is necessary to set down these additional rules.有必要制定這些補充規則。
  • I think we can fit in an additional room.我想我們可以再加建一間房子。
8 disappearance ouEx5     
  • He was hard put to it to explain her disappearance.他難以說明她為什么不見了。
  • Her disappearance gave rise to the wildest rumours.她失蹤一事引起了各種流言蜚語。
9 somewhat Pwtw1     
  • The cake we made was somewhat of a failure.我們做的蛋糕不大成功。
  • The two office buildings are somewhat alike in appearance.這兩座辦公樓在外形上有點相似。
10 lengthy f36yA     
  • We devoted a lengthy and full discussion to this topic.我們對這個題目進行了長時間的充分討論。
  • The professor wrote a lengthy book on Napoleon.教授寫了一部有關拿破侖的巨著。
11 emphasis bPPz0     
  • The emphasis has shifted markedly in recent years.最近幾年重點已經明顯改變了。
  • Particular emphasis will be placed on oral language training.將會特別強調口語訓練。
12 determined duszmP     
  • I have determined on going to Tibet after graduation.我已決定畢業后去西藏。
  • He determined to view the rooms behind the office.他決定查看一下辦公室后面的房間。
13 dealing NvjzWP     
  • This store has an excellent reputation for fair dealing.該商店因買賣公道而享有極高的聲譽。
  • His fair dealing earned our confidence.他的誠實的行為獲得我們的信任。
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