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change the voice

The goons did not realize that their conversation was being recorded

Which option is more appropriate ? And why?

a) The goons did not realize that someone was recording their conversation.

b) It was not realized by the goons that their conversation was being recorded.

c) It was not realized by the goons that someone was recording their conversation.

I knew that in voice change for complex sentence, we need to change voice for both part in the sentence.Will it be applicable here also and option C) would be correct?

Let me clarify my doubt more precise manner. It's an exam question where you have to choose only option which is correct. I have an anglo-vernacular grammar book which is based on Nesfield,Wren and Martin. It specifically says and I quote " In changing the voice of complex sentences the voice of principal and the subordinate clauses should be changed if they have a transitive verb and object/complement. Intodcutory 'It' may also be used ". But there is no extra clarification what to do if you face different options like this one.

  • Be aware that these exercises are often presented to students just to drill them on the mechanics. There is no real justification for casting the first clause about the "goons" in the passive. And IMO, these books should also have a section on casting awkward passive constructions into simpler active ones. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Nov 6 '18 at 21:47
  • I understand but then the instruction in my grammar book is not accurate. Isn't it? – Ritwik Bhattacharyya Nov 7 '18 at 14:14
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All of your options are grammatically correct. (b) and (c) are awkward. We usually use a passive voice when we don't want to specify who is doing the action, perhaps because we want to downplay who it is, or we don't know who it is, or because we want to emphasize the action over the actor.

In this example, we might say "their conversation was being recorded" because the speaker doesn't know who did the recording, or because it doesn't matter, the point is just that someone did.

"It was not realized by the goons" is awkward because the sentence goes out of its way to use a passive voice and thus de-emphasize the actor ... and then it specifies the actor.

(a) is a perfectly good and reasonable sentence. It would be better still if instead of saying "someone" you said who it was. Like, "The goons did not realize that the FBI was recording their conversation."

"I knew that in voice change for complex sentence, we need to change voice for both part in the sentence." Not necessarily true. It's perfectly reasonable for a sentence to have one part in active void and another in passive voice. The original sentence does this: "the goons did not realize", active voice, "that their conversation was being recorded", passive voice.

Another variation that occurs to me is, "It was not realized that the FBI was recording the goons' conversation." Now we know who did the recording, but we no longer know who failed to realize.

  • Let me clarify my doubt more. It's an exam question where you have to choose only option which is correct. I have an anglo-vernacular grammar book which is based on Nesfield,Wren and Martin. It specifically says and I quote " In changing the voice of complex sentences the voice of principal and the subordinate clauses should be changed if they have a transitive verb and object/complement. Intodcutory 'It' may also be used ". But there is no extra clarification as to what will happen if you face different options like this That's why I asked which would be more correct if I have to select one. – Ritwik Bhattacharyya Nov 7 '18 at 9:04
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I assume you want to make passive the phrase with the verb "realize", since "were being recorded" is already in the passive voice. If this is a question on an exam, it's not a very good one since it's not clear what it's asking you do to.

In any case: Be aware that the passive voice of "realize" sounds awkward, and so any answer choice might be correct grammar but ugly style. For example:

She realized that her shoes were untied --> It was realized by her that her shoes were untied.

"It was realized by her" is just poor English style. There's no reason to use the passive voice in this context.

So, as far as your answers, all are correct in one way or another:

Your answer (a) actually changes the second part (which already is in the passive voice) back to the active voice. It is a grammatically correct sentence, but might not answer the question.

Your answer (b) is correct, but as I said, awkward.

Your answer (c) is also correct, but again changes the second part of the sentence to the active voice.

I can't tell you which is "more" correct since I'd have to read the mind of the person who made the test to understand which they thought the answer should be. Mind-reading questions like this are poorly written, and should be discarded, as they don't really teach English in the way that native speakers use it.

  • Let me clarify my doubt more. It's an exam question where you have to choose only option which is correct. I have an anglo-vernacular grammar book which is based on Nesfield,Wren and Martin. It specifically says and I quote " In changing the voice of complex sentences the voice of principal and the subordinate clauses should be changed if they have a transitive verb and object/complement. Intodcutory 'It' may also be used ". But there is no extra clarification what to do if you face different options like this one That's why I asked which would be more correct if I have to select one – Ritwik Bhattacharyya Nov 7 '18 at 9:03
  • @RitwikBhattacharyya None are "more" correct, as all change the sentence in different ways, each of which is grammatically correct. Moreover the explanation of how to create the passive is not quite right, as it's not just switching the subject and object but also changing the verb. It also doesn't explain that the passive voice doesn't make sense for every verb. Anyway, if this is an exam question, then it's very poorly written and should be discarded as a pointless exercise. – Andrew Nov 7 '18 at 16:39

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