Kind of busy to write an original entry this week so rock out with this excerpt from my recent book GRAMMAR SLAMMER.
GRAMMAR SLAMMER is available FREE from Feb 10 to Feb 15.
Get it here as a paperback at Amazon US / Amazon (UK)
Get it here as a paperback at Createspace.
ACTIVATE THE PASSIVE
This is very important. It’s the difference between fucking somebody, and being fucked by somebody. When we use the passive, we swap the position of the subject and object, and fiddle the verb a bit. The time referred to doesn’t change, and neither does the general meaning; just the focus of who’s doing what changes.
A brief overview:
PRESENT SIMPLE ACTIVE
John Wayne Gacy kills a male prostitute
PRESENT SIMPLE PASSIVE
A male prostitute is killed by John Wayne Gacy.
PRESENT CONTINUOUS ACTIVE
John Wayne Gacy is killing a male prostitute.
PRESENT CONTINUOUS PASSIVE
A male prostitute is being killed by John Wayne Gacy.
PRESENT PERFECT ACTIVE
John Wayne Gacy has killed a male prostitute.
PRESENT PERFECT PASSIVE
A male prostitute has been killed by John Wayne Gacy.
John Wayne Gacy killed a male prostitute.
A male prostitute was killed by John Wayne Gacy.
PAST CONTINUOUS ACTIVE
John Wayne Gacy was killing a male prostitute.
PAST CONTINUOUS PASSIVE
A male prostitute was being killed by John Wayne Gacy.
PAST PERFECT ACTIVE
John Wayne Gacy had killed a male prostitute
PAST PERFECT PASSIVE
A male prostitute had been killed by John Wayne Gacy.
John Wayne Gacy is going to kill a male prostitute.
A male prostitute is going to be killed by John Wayne Gacy.
FUTURE PERFECT ACTIVE
John Wayne Gacy will have killed a male prostitute.
FUTURE PERFECT PASSIVE
A male prostitute will have been killed by John Wayne Gacy.
HOW TO PRESENT IT
Mercedes cars are made in Germany.
You: So what about this sentence? What tense is this?
Students: (analytically) Well … ARE, that suggests present … MADE, that’s the third form of the verb … but it’s not present perfect …
You: So what’s the subject of this sentence?
Students: Mercedes cars?
You: Ah, but look carefully at the verb … did the cars make something?
Students: TEACHER! ENOUGH OF THIS TORMENT!
You: (professorially) Who made the cars?
Students: Uh … Mercedes company? Turkish guest workers?
You: See, that’s the thing. In this case, we are focused on the object, and don’t wish to repeat
ourselves by saying “Mercedes company makes Mercedes cars in Germany.” This is called the present passive construction. Everybody know what passive means?
Students: Relaxed, not aggressive.
You: Yeah. But that probably can’t help you remember anything about this tense. How did we make it here?
Students: The object is in the subject position. The verb BE plus the third form of the verb.
You: Plus IN a place or AT a time, usually. Now, what would be the question for this answer?
Students: (Weeping gently and quietly)
You: Question word, plus BE, plus object, plus third form of the verb.
Students: Where … are … Mercedes cars … made?
Deadly viruses are created in secret laboratories.
You: All right, make this bad bitch past tense.
Students: Deadly viruses WERE created in secret government labs.
You: Oh yeah.
My wallet was stolen!
You: So why did I use passive here?
Students: You don’t know who stole it, I guess!
You: Well, maybe I don’t know, maybe I don’t care, maybe it’s just not my main point of interest in the sentence. I can put the subject after BY however.
My wallet was stolen by a Panamanian coke whore.
You: So what’s the object?
Students: Wallet? But in the subject position here … TEACHER! YOU ARE A HATEFUL LIAR!
You: (shocked) I’m not!
Students: You teach us about subjects being before the verb, now you teach us a way to completely twist that around!
You: (Sternly) Oooh, is the little baby gonna cry? Little baby wants some milk? You have some poop in your Pampers there, little baby? I AM TEACHING YOU MANY VARIATIONS TO ALLOW YOU TO EXPRESS YOURSELF WITH THE AUTHORITY OF A SHAKESPEARE OR A WORDSWORTH! TO UNLOCK THE SOUL OF THE POET WITHIN YOU!
Students: (Drying eyes) Oh … well … in that case …
You: It’s most often used in writing, anyway, the passive. Okay, back to this one. Past, present now give me future!
Students: Deadly viruses will be created in government labs? Deadly viruses are going to be created in government labs?
You: That’s it. Both are possible.
Students: Any difference?
You: No, pretty much the same?
Dorky Student: So, WILL and GOING TO are different, in the future simple, but not in the future continuous, future perfect, or future passive?
You: Uh … yeah! You nailed it. But we have some other passives to worry about, I’m afraid.
The drunken English teacher is writing a test.
You: What tense is this?
Students: Present continuous! Aka present progressive!
You: So make it passive.
Students: The test … is … BEING WRITTEN … by … the drunken English teacher.
Students: It’s like doing a puzzle! An incredibly fun puzzle composed of pure joy!
You: Uh … yeah.
Excessive drinking has ruined my liver.
You: What tense is this?
Students: The dreaded present perfect.
You: MAKE IT PASSIVE! This is much harder.
Students: Teacher. We surrender.
You: Object plus has / have + BEEN + THIRD FORM.
Students: Insane! The vagaries of the English language are driving us mad!
You: Cease your prattle and produce the present perfect passive!
Students: My liver … has … BEEN RUINED … by excessive drinking.
You: Now it’s a short trip from there to the PAST perfect passive.
Students: My liver HAD BEEN RUINED by excessive drinking.
You: See there? It’s not so hard as all that. Future perfect!
Students: My liver WILL HAVE BEEN RUINED by excessive drinking.
Students: So now tell us the present perfect continuous passive … hold on, let us all bend over, first …
You: (Beaming benevolently) You can relax. The present perfect continuous passive is theoretically possible, but almost never used.
Students: It won’t be on the test?
Students: Glory to the Elder Gods.
You: Bless you my children.
HOW TO PRACTICE IT
Drills are useful for this particular form:
You: Okay, I’ll make an active sentence, you make it passive.
You: Cats eat mice.
Students: Mice are eaten by cats.
You: Shakespeare wrote poems.
Students: Poems were written by Shakespeare.
You: Huge corporations have ruined the environment.
Students: The environment has been ruined by huge corporations.
You: Right on, man. You cats are indoctrinated!
Questions in the passive are occasionally a bit awkward but you can do them in a sort of a quiz show format:
Who was SHOWGIRLS directed by?
Where are Toyota cars made?
Who was FUCK THE PAIN AWAY sung by?