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What is the difference in meaning between the two sentences below?
(Please note that only b) has was.)

a) The police officer caught red-handed for accepting bribe.
b) The police officer was caught red-handed for accepting bribe.

I found sentence a) in The Times of India. I am sure that sentence a) is grammatically incorrect.

2

First of all, as others have noted your first sentence is incorrect. Now to make a proper active version of the second sentence, you would actually need to know the subject. In other words, you would need to ask-

The police officer was caught red handed for accepting bribe (by whom?)

Suppose the answer is:

The chief of police

Then a proper active version would be-

The chief of police caught the police officer red-handed for accepting bribe.

Now, lets compare the two versions:

Passive: The police officer was caught red handed for accepting bribe.
Active: The chief of police caught the police officer red-handed for accepting bribe.

Both are similar sentences. But the active version actually contains more information. There is not really a strict rule on when to use active or passive. But a few related points are-

  • Sentences which provide an emphasis on the subject are often active. Often if when the object is irrelevant, we may use active voice and omit it.

    Example We won!

    Who cares what we won, the important thing is we won.

  • Sentences which provide an emphasis on the object are often passive. If the subject is irrelevant or unknown, we may use passive voice and omit it.

    Example The necklace was stolen

    We don't know who was the thief. So, this sounds better than

    Someone stole the the necklace.

    which provides no extra information

In your specific example, maybe we don't know who caught the police officer or we don't care, in that case we may use the passive version.

EDIT

I saw your link.

Note that titles of articles need not be a be a complete sentence. In most cases, it is a single phrase. So, the title is perfectly acceptable.

The first line of the article on the other hand is incorrect as you have correctly said yourself. It implies that the assistant commissioner caught someone which is not the intended meaning there. It is also grammatically incorrect because caught doesn't have an object which is needed in this case.

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  • Thanks for answer. It is really in brief. Please check my link. – user4084 Sep 8 '15 at 12:42
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    @user4084 I did, this was covered in the edit section. – Rohcana Sep 8 '15 at 12:44
  • Thamks Anachor for clearing confusion. I think i m on correct track of learning english – user4084 Sep 8 '15 at 15:48
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While all answers are correct in pointing at the "incorrectness" of the first sentence, keep in mind that it is common in media reporting to omit verb 'be' from headlines.

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  • But the article linked omits the be verb in the first line of the main body as well, which is why it is erroneous. – Rohcana Sep 8 '15 at 13:29
1

the first seems ungrammatical. The verb 'caught' should have some object.

The police officer caught (whom....?)

The second one is fine.

If you don't want to have the direct object and want to include the police officer, you may have it in an indirect way

The police officer got caught red...

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    "If you don't want to have the direct object and want to include the police officer, you may have it in an indirect way" -- I don't understand what you were trying to suggest in that part. It looks to me that you thought The police officer got caught red... doesn't have the direct object, but The police officer was caught red handed ... does have one. – Damkerng T. Sep 9 '15 at 17:14
  • I mean to say that "the police officer caught red handed for accepting" does not have any object -caught 'whom'? – Maulik V Sep 10 '15 at 3:29
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a) is not a complete sentence, it is an expression as part of a large sentence. it might be "The police officer caught red handed for accepting bribe was sentenced 3 years into prison"

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