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Is it okay to use passive voice with "with great interest", such as "With great interest, the book was read." or "The book was read with great interest"?

Mostly I see people say or write "With great interest, I..." I'm not sure whether it is okay that there isn't a clear subject, such as I, you, he, etc. written before or after this phrase. The reason I wanted to write it this way is that it would sound more formal when "I" is not used in such a sentence.

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The sentence "The book was read with great interest" would be okay if it meant that it was read by a number of people, but if it's meant to refer to you, it sounds rather stilted (artificial). "With great interest, the book was read" sounds even worse. Both sentences give the impression that you are going out of your way to hide who did the reading.

As for how to rewrite it, that depends on what you're trying to say. You could say "The book was very interesting", in which case it would be assumed that it was of interest to the writer (namely you). But if this is a formal piece of writing, you should replace this sentence, which doesn't tell the reader much, by something more specific, such as: "Certain aspects of the book were {especially interesting, of special interest}, namely..." Basically, unless your essay is primarily about your personal reactions, you want to focus on the book itself.

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Yes, that is perfectly fine.

Both passive voice options are typically literary, so they are fine in writing, but not necessarily in speech. People tend to write in English how they speak, so an active voice rendering is more common. Also, using "with great interest" after the sentence is also more common.

When speaking you would typically use an active voice such as "They read the book with great interest." Otherwise you sound overly formal or outdated.

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You are correct in your concern that there is no "actor" i.e. person doing the activity. In fact, often that is why newspaper accounts use the passive voice so they don't have to specify the doer of the action.

It will not make your writing seem "more formal" to use the construction. You do not say if you are writing for an academic purpose, or a blog, or a facebook post (in the case of the latter two it won't make much difference); but if you are writing at a college level it is likely a bad idea. Unless it is a low level course where instructors forgive more easily, use the more formal "this author" or "this researcher." Better still, do some research on the book and cite other authors.

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