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Reply to "active/passive voice"

@gilbert posted:


Thousands of households have been left without water after the nearby water treatment plant was shut down due to the extreme turbidity in the river supplying water to it.



@billj posted:

Another possibility:

The closure of the nearby water treatment plant due to the extreme turbidity in the river supplying water to it has left thousands of households without water.

@gilbert posted:

Billj's suggestion also works without the hint of a subject (or is there one that I'm missing?).



Hi, Gilbert—In your passive-voice-sentence example, there is no agent "by"-phrase to specify the cause of the thousands of households' being left without water; however, the cause is indicated by the "after"-clause, which, as Gustavo points out, is also in the passive voice ("was shut down").

One way of converting the sentence to active voice is by adding an arbitrary subject ("they"): "They have left thousands of households without water." That was Gustavo's approach. Another way is to express the subject by using a noun phrase expressive of what is indicated by the "after"-clause.

That was BillJ's approach. He converted "the nearby water treatment plant was shut down" to "the closure of the nearby water treatment plant" and made the latter the subject of the active-voice conversion of the main clause: "The closure . . . has left thousands of households without water." We could also say:

  • The shutting down of the nearby water treatment plant due to the extreme turbidity in the river supplying water to it has left thousands of households without water.

If you don't like the "ing"-"of" noun phrase "the shutting down of the . . ." as subject, we could, of course, add an arbitrary subject (say, "the city officials"), use the possessive, and convert the subject phrase to what ESL teachers the world over (not CGEL or generative sytacticians) would call a possessive gerund:

  • The city officials' shutting down the nearby water treatment plant due to the extreme turbidity in the river supplying water to it has left thousands of households without water.

This situation of an "after"-clause indicating the cause of the event in the passive-voice main clause is interesting. It's worth looking at related cases, ones that don't involve as many words. Here's one: "People were angered after gasoline prices rose again" <--> "Gasoline prices' rising again angered people."

Last edited by David, Moderator
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