1

Are these passive constructions common now? One native speaker said to me that they are extremely formal.

It is believed that Jesus was born, rose from the dead, and crucified and resurrected.

It is expected that the delegates will endorse the existing peace plan of the European Community.

It is alleged that he pays bribes to the Italian government or exports aphrodisiacs.

It is said that the gun can be fired twenty times in one minute.

1

Your examples are all entirely common, but also slightly formal. They might also be considered slightly awkward.

In casual speech you would more likely say, "they believe that..." or "they say that...", etc. They is used as a kind of catch-all subject when the actual subject is unknown.

In careful writing you might prefer to find some way to provide an actual subject for these sentences. For example,

Christians believe that Jesus was born, crucified, and resurrected.

Prosecutors allege that he pays bribes.

Etc.

3
  • Exactly; in some of the OP's sentences, there's an implication that everyone believes/says/alleges [x], and that's not true. I would say that the 2nd and 4th examples could reasonably remain as they are; it's fair to assume that most people expect a certain result from the delegation, and "It is said that" is actually a set phrase, I think. But I agree that the 1st and 3rd sentences really need a subject to be less awkward. +1!
    – WendiKidd
    Nov 20 '13 at 23:29
  • The place I usually see "it is said..." is in trade magazines where they've just copy-and-pasted text from a company's press release in to an "article". They tack "It is said" in front of each substantial claim to distance themselves from the claim. But it makes for some really awkward reading.
    – The Photon
    Nov 21 '13 at 0:58
  • @ThePhoton This is sometimes called using weasel words. (I think Wikipedia popularized the term, but if not, then Wikipedia is at least where I first ran into it.)
    – user230
    Nov 21 '13 at 1:33

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