I found a sentence from a test:

That evils had power was believed in the olden days.

Why did the writer use the passive voice in this example? What difference would it have made if the sentence had been the following?

People used to believe that evils had power in the olden days

  • 1
    The example sentence is interesting, I've expanded the original question, and modified the title to see if it generates more interest, and more answers.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 4, 2016 at 8:37

1 Answer 1


What you have is a noun clause that begins with that.

That-clause as a noun clause
A that-clause is an example of a noun clause. It can be the subject or the object of the verb.

The that-clause is "that evils had power" and the given sentence (in OP) is grammatical. Such a construction might not be used as frequently as others. For example, one might instead write

The idea that evils had power was believed in the olden days.

When talking about a fact, one could use "the fact" instead of "the idea".

Another example would be

It was believed in the olden days that evils had power.

  • Hi, sorry but I decided to expand the OP's question a little bit. On second thoughts, maybe it is too opinion based, you can edit it out if you prefer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 4, 2016 at 8:30
  • Actually, I left OP a comment earlier basically saying that "is this natural?" is off-topic and to ask instead why the sentence works. I got no reply, so I instead tried to answer why using "that" in this manner was ok. I felt like that was the main issue, not using passive voice or using passive voice instead of active voice. Anyway, I'm not sure what to do. Now it seems "primarily opinion based" since it would be a matter of style rather than grammar or meaning.
    – Em.
    Oct 4, 2016 at 8:37
  • It is a bit of a problem I agree, but your answer is much better than someone simply saying "No, it sounds antiquated or weird". In any case, I've made the division clear between the original post and the new request. I do understand, however; I may have crossed the line with this edit. But I do think it looks more interesting now. (I hope)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 4, 2016 at 8:40
  • Thank you. I'd rather have the question/post open and interesting rather than off-topic and closed. We'll see how OP and others feel.
    – Em.
    Oct 4, 2016 at 8:58

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