I haven't been on the forum for a long time, but long enough to see that there are far more questions about recasting sentences in the active voice into the passive than the other way around.

I assume non-native English speakers find the passive to be the more difficult voice to master, hence that preponderance. But I am beginning to wonder if active-into-passive exercises are more numerous than passive-into-active exercises in the standard learning-English-as-a-second-language textbooks. Are they?

P.S. I understand that there are times when the passive is called for, and am not against it in a pig-headed way. But I would recommend that learners not go out of their way to use the passive if an idiomatic active form has presented itself.

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    I think it's borderline. It's partly about the site (which would mean it belongs on meta), but it's also about English and learning English (which would mean it belongs here, not on meta).
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 13:08
  • @bruised reed: I thought the "meta" site was for questions about the site per se, i.e. how the site operated, rules, terms of service, etc.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 13:10
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    @bruised reed: No, it is not subjective. Whether there is a preponderance of active-into-passive exercises is demonstrable, one way or the other. It's not asking for an opinion.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 13:15
  • @bruised reed: Have I even ventured to say what should be done about those books, if indeed they are favoring the passive? No, I have not. Have I questioned the motives of their authors? No, I have not.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 13:18
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    I may be reading more into the question than is intended, but I voted to leave it open because I see it as a question related to teaching English. It may be a bit of a stretch but the help does say ELL is for people who are learning or teaching English as a foreign language.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 13:30

1 Answer 1


I think that we see more questions about recasting into passive voice simply because it is more difficult to learn. Some tenses can't be recast into passive voice, and passive voice involves auxiliary verbs, so it requires more practice than active voice in some ways. I don't think the prevalence of the questions indicates that the learners are being encouraged to use passive voice. One of the reasons to favor active voice is that it makes sentences easier to understand, so it seems to follow that there would be more questions about the construction that is less clear.

  • That is what I have assumed as well.
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 16, 2014 at 13:43

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