English Prefers Passive Voice!

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Jun 7, 2019 13:53
Back in middle school, my Chinese English teachers taught us that “the English language prefers the passive voice to the active voice.” They explained that using the passive could make the writing seem more objective. (The reason looks weird to me now.) Also, all the English grammar books written by Chinese people told us that using passive voice is more sensible so scientists like to use them. I wasn’t very good at English exams back in high school, so the above knowledge didn’t sink in.

In university, I started reading English extensively and improved a lot. I never found that passive voice is preferred. To me, the active voice is no doubt clearer because, unlike passive voice, the message of who performs the actions isn't missing. But I still heard many Chinese people, including teachers, bring up the knowledge that the passive voice is better. Since I’d reached a certain level of English to the extent of finding that assertion weird, I consulted several American friends, but they all said it wasn’t true. Interestingly, whenever I told my fellow countrymen, they usually replied like this: “Well, you asked Americans, but perhaps it's different in British English, which is more strict….”

Recently I read a Lang-8 friend’s entry saying that she worked as an editor and she found her Russian clients tend to overuse the passive voice, which makes their writing very unnatural. She asked them why and they all answered that their teachers taught them so.

Now I was just flipping through the most popular Kaoyan (China’s GRE) guidebook in China, and read these lines blatantly stating that “英语比较喜欢被动 The English language likes to use the passive voice.”

I wish to know your opinions, my Lang-8 friends, because you guys are always trustworthy.