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Is there any different nuance between them? Here are two examples:

  1. I was only good to be beaten on.
  2. I was only good to be beaten.

And I would like to know that in conversations, is passive voice used frequently than active voice? Something like,

  1. Is she spoken for?
  2. Mr. Perry was talked of.
  3. Your direction shall be attended to.

I know that it depends on what subject is aimed at by speakers

But why do I get the feeling that there is a subtle difference in meaning between passive and active?

I thought that 'be spoken for' means 'be represented by' 'dibs' but if it is changed into active, is the meaning still the same as when it is passive?

  • In your first two set of sentences both infinitives are in passive voice, and both mean the same. It is not clear what you mean by "And i would like to know that in conversations, dose passive voice is used frequently than active voice?". If you simply want to know if passive voice is used more in conversation, there is no such rule. Your sentence _ "Is she spoken for?" - is not a correct sentence. "Spoken for"? What does that mean in that sentence? – Man_From_India Jan 23 '15 at 14:44
  • @Man_From_India first of all thank for helping me all the time :) let me correct this more clearly. I wanted to say, taking example, 'speak for' means 'represent' but 'be spoken for' means like this 'Be already claimed, owned, or reserved' from oxford dic( oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/be-spoken-for) only just changed into passivs and changed its meaning – user10222 Jan 23 '15 at 15:07
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    The passive spoken for is an idiomatic usage meaning "already claimed/owned by or reserved for someone else". The active "I speak for her" means something completely different (I am speaking on her behalf; whatever I say carries her endorsement). The others are more likely to be expressed as "Mr Perry was spoken of" and "Your directive will be attended to". – FumbleFingers Jan 23 '15 at 16:22
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    I think 'beaten on' is an AmE idiom, similar to 'spoken for'. It is not used in BrE at all when referring to people, only objects. An oil drum may be beaten on, to make noise. – Tetsujin Jan 23 '15 at 16:31
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"Beaten on" vs. "beaten":

"Beaten" suggests a completeness, a thoroughness. It's equivalent to saying "the meal was eaten" - it suggests that people ate until there was no meal left. (When someone has been beaten thoroughly, we say they've been "beaten up".)

"Beaten on" is an idiom. It suggests a partial action - "I beat on him until someone stopped me," or "I beat on him until I felt better," etc. It doesn't tell you whether the beating was thorough enough to make him beaten up.

"Beat on" also suggests "commit violence again" more than "beat" does. If I say "I beat him," you might assume I won a game of chess against him or something. If I say "I beat him", you're somewhat more likely to assume I committed violence against him.

Passive Voice Vs. Active Voice

There's a difference in emphasis between passive and active. Passive lets you erase the subject/actor/doer.

You do this because:

  1. The subject isn't important. "I was fired today." I could say "Bob in the HR department fired me," but really, I don't care who fired me. I just care that I got fired.
  2. You want to hide or de-emphasize the subject. "Jimmy and I were playing catch in the living room, and the lamp got broken." vs. "Jimmy and I were playing catch in the living room, and we broke the lamp." The former sounds better than the latter. The latter emphasizes that we did it.

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