In English, we can say

it's important to translate some words


some words are important to translate.

Why don't we say

some words are important to be translated?

  • Please note: a passive tense is for an action verb: He speaks English=English is spoken by him. So for translate you need something like:He translates some words; Some words are translated by him. |It's important to translate| cannot be made into a passive tense. – Lambie Sep 5 '17 at 16:06
  • There isn't necessarily any reason why grammar rules are what they are. We say things the way we say them because that's how we say them. – The Photon Sep 5 '17 at 16:09
  • See araucaria's accepted answer. I think 'important' falls into group #3..but..hmm..I'm not so sure. – user178049 Sep 5 '17 at 16:25
  • Your first sentence is an extraposition construction. Infinitival clauses can occur as extraposed subject in passive clauses in which they are related to a predicative complement. In other types of clause, infinitivals are restricted to just a few catenative verbs (e.g. "decide", "desire" "hope","prefer". But neither of those conditions apply to your example -- in other words, there is no passive counterpart of your example. – BillJ Sep 5 '17 at 16:32

Passive voice is used in certain cases. Overusing and exaggerating is a big mistake. In this case "It's important to translate some words", there's no need to change the sentence to passive, since the sentence is not personal. One chief usage of passive voice is avoiding personal sentences.

For example, when giving driving instructions:

First, you must set your seat to the most comfortable situation.
Then, you must set your rear-view mirror and side mirrors.
Next, your must fasten your belt.

You could paraphrase above like:

First, the seat must be set to the most comfortable situation.
Then, the rear-view mirror and side mirrors must be set.
Next, the seatbelt must be fastened.

This is a formal text, so it is possbile to use passive voice. However, when it comes to scientific texts, using pssive voice against personal sentnces is a prerequisite.

Like mentioned, you should avoid overusing passive sentences unless neccessary.

P.S.: In your example, "it's important to translate some words.", the sentence is already impersonal. Hence, no need to rewite it in passive form.

  • Your second paraphrase (rear-view mirror and side mirrors are to set) is syntactically (or at least, idiomatically) invalid. You need either are to be set (ungainly, in most contexts), or plain are set. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Sep 5 '17 at 16:45
  • I like the first paragraph which supports OP's first version. But the following examples which avoid instructing the car driver directly, by saying how things should be (many people hate being told what to do), are interesting, but contradict your first paragraph. – Weather Vane Sep 5 '17 at 17:25
  • @FumbleFingers: edited! – Sina Sep 5 '17 at 18:02
  • @Wather Vane: well, I just wanted to show which sentences are allowed to turn into passive. The main thing is formality and the resister (scientific,). – Sina Sep 5 '17 at 18:06
  • 1
    See this post on meta for formatting tips: ell.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2923/… Block quote formatting uses > and has a yellow background. Code formatting uses a monospaced font and has a gray background. I've edited your post to change the "code" formatting for you. – ColleenV parted ways Sep 6 '17 at 17:56

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