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I want to say that current standards in education are not tha same as they were in some time in the past. I wonder if I should use the passive or active voice here.

  1. A lot of standards in education have changed since I was a student.
  2. A lot of standards in education have been changed since I was a student.

Which one is preferable? I think that second option with passive voice is correct, because education standards can't change themselves. However, I wonder if there're any cases in which we could use the first one.

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  • Though standards can't technically change themselves, but "standards have changed" is perfectly grammatical in English. This is, in my opinion, similar to the verb become. We can say that something has become another something even when someone or something else was the cause of the change. Also related: "middle voice", e.g. This book reads well. This car drives better than the last one. It sells like crazy! etc. Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 17:10

2 Answers 2

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I prefer 1, actually. Change is an inherently passive thing, you can't stop change, change happens for its own sake. It's perfectly fine to say "standards have changed" because standards are always changing.

It's like "events have happened." The events themselves have no power to happen or not. There are plenty of fictional events that never happened except in books, and the event itself can't change that. Happening is an agent, it is the bringing into reality itself.

That said, 2 is grammatical, but less poetic. It calls to mind that there is a process to change standards, and that process has happened, instead of just saying that things are different now, and it doesn't matter why.

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  • I would go even farther than that and say that "Standards have been changed" is wrong unless you are referring to a deliberate decision by a specific person or organization. "Standards changed" is the only correct option to express that a gradual drift has taken place without any deliberate action being taken. Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 3:22
  • For example, I have heard that it used to be customary to teach partial fractions in middle school (yikes!). Now this is regarded as an advanced high school topic. To refer to a difference in general educational practices (or their popular perceptions) like in this example, I'd say "standards have changed." You can't point to a specific instance where someone said, "Hey, let's not teach this until high school now." Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 3:27
  • But if (hypothetical example), in a certain school district, you used to need a 70% average to pass a class, and then last year the district decided that the minimum passing grade be increased to 75%, then you could say "the standards have been changed." Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 3:33
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Have changed It gives idea of action of education changed is completed. Also you should not use time expression in present perfect tense.

Has been changed It gives idea of period of changing education. It means it is changing since you were a student. You can use time expression in present perfect tense.

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    The question is about passive and active form of the sentence and not about tenses. Commented Jun 13, 2015 at 17:21

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