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Although the active voice is predominant in the English language the ‘ideal’ proportion of recommended passive sentences is still regarded as between 5% and 10%(source1) ( source2). Which is substantially more than in languages like Spanish and, though I couldn't find numerical data to compare the percentage use of the passive voice, experience of writing in Spanish and memories of Spanish teachers accustomed to bilingual students warning about overusing the passive voice "like in English", as well as these language learning sites expressing that the passive is not as common in Spanish, Italian and German as it is in English, provide me with some confirmation.

As such, what intrinsic difference does English have that would allow more sentences to make sense in the passive voice than the languages mentioned above? Sources would be appreciated.

P.S. It's still gramatically correct in all the languages mentioned above to use the pasive voice to whatever degree, but many more sentences in this voice would be discouraged as they'd simply not make much sense or be very hard to understand (particullarly in conversations).

Disclaimer: Perhaps other European languages use the passive more often, but even so, why is this the case, I'm particularly interested in comparing English to Spanish or Italian or German.

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    I actually thought it was more common in German. – MaxB Aug 17 at 23:21
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    We've been through this already. First, many languages have no passive voice. Second, many languages have several constructions called "passive", or used like passives. Third, English passives are not more common than passives in other languages; your sources are incorrect. Fourth, there is no the ‘ideal’ proportion of passive to active in any language; certainly not English. So, the question gets no answer. Again. – jlawler Aug 17 at 23:31
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    What evidence do you have for any of this? And there is absolutely no such thing as an "ideal proportion of passive sentences". – curiousdannii Aug 18 at 2:48
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    @curiousdannii "And there is absolutely no such thing as an "ideal proportion of passive sentences"" Descriptively true, but prescriptivism is still rampant. I wouldn't be surprised if various style guides prescribed a specific percentage of sentences to make passive for Correct English™. – Draconis Aug 18 at 5:11
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    @Keelan: As I noted, there isn't any universal "Passive" whose properties can be compared from language to language. Many languages don't even have subjects, let alone passives. The belief that there is such a universal passive, with known properties, is a matter of opinion, not fact., just as much as the beliefs that some of these should be "discouraged", or that there is an "ideal proportion" of them. All of these ideas are nonsense. – jlawler Aug 18 at 17:01
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I am not sure whether your initial assumption is statistically correct, but let us take it as a working hypothesis. French and German (to mention only these) very commonly use "on" and "man" with an active verb where English prefers a passive construction. Thus: "on dit" = "man sagt" = "it is said". Of course you can also say "one says", but this is less common, or in any case less colloquial.

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    That's what they say. – Rosie F Aug 19 at 14:27
  • But in Spanish, one finds a reflexive middle-voice construction: "Se dice". – Mark Beadles Aug 19 at 19:36

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