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The modifications made by them in the draft were so drastic that the entire emphasis ______ shifted.

I'm not able to make out which one, out of had and had been, I should use in this sentence. I understand that been is used in passive voice but what difference does it make here ?

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    Either could be valid. There are some verbs which when used intransitively (without an object) indicate a state change of the subject and when used transitively indicate something acting on the object. As such, when used in subordinate clause, sometimes either an active or passive verb form is possible. – eques Oct 31 '17 at 20:34
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Rewording your sentence very slightly, I believe that what you intend to say is:

The modifications made by them in the draft were so drastic that they had shifted the entire emphasis.

That would be the active version of this sentence using the verb shift transitively, with emphasis becoming the object. In that case, to structure the sentence as you have it, you would want to use the passive voice, so you would write:

The modifications made by them in the draft were so drastic that the entire emphasis had been shifted.

If you instead use the active voice, you are using shift intransitively, and your sentence would read:

The modifications made by them in the draft were so drastic that the entire emphasis had shifted.

In this case, you are still using the so...that construct to communicate cause and effect, and because of that, you are still communicating the same message to your audience. The difference would be in the emphasis on emphasis - whether it be the modifications as the actor causing the shift (transitive), or the emphasis itself changing (intransitive), along the lines of what eques mentioned in his comment.

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    "The modifications made by them in the draft were so drastic that the entire emphasis had shifted." This would also be valid. – eques Oct 31 '17 at 20:33
  • @eques agreed. I think I was too hung up on trying to pick one or the other, but they are both valid. The OP was asking about the difference between the two options, so I've modified my answer to address that. – mathewb Oct 31 '17 at 21:20
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You are hung up on the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs.

An intransitive verb does not take a direct object. For example, a cat can catch a mouse, and a cat can eat a mouse, but a cat cannot "die" a mouse. Catch and eat are transitive; die is intransitive.

Many verbs can be used transitively or intransitive. The cat can eat a mouse, or she can just eat, and the contents of the meal are just assumed.

You can say, "The emphasis shifts". It's common enough to say something shift, even if something inanimate being acted upon by an external force.

Or you can say, "The change shifts the emphasis." Either way.

In your sentence, there is an argument to be made either way. "The emphasis had been shifted" is a passive, transitive use; while "The emphasis had shifted" if the active intransitive. In general, I prefer active, but here the subject of conversation is really the changes.

You might cut the Gordian knot by writing "The modification they made in the draft was so drastic that it shifted the entire emphasis."

(Note that I made "modification" singular so I could use "it" and that I got rid of the passive "made by them".)

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