Funky Winkerbean Explains the Passive Voice
Posted by Neal on June 11, 2006
Les Moore of Funky Winkerbean. This is one English teacher whose students are going to know less about English when they finish his class than when they started:
Let’s see: “Active voice sentences are those in which your subject, verb, and direct object follow directly along behind each other.” OK, first of all, how can two things be behind each other? All right, if two people stand back to back, I guess they would be behind each other, but how does this apply to words? Let’s call the beginning of the sentence the front; then in a sentence such as She eats the chips, She is in front, eats follows behind She, and the chips follows behind eats. Which two words are behind each other? Second, what if the sentence doesn’t have a direct object, as in They laughed?
Next: “Passive voice sentences turn the order around, placing the object first and the subject last.” Pity poor lovestruck Darin if he tries to follow this rule…
“So the passive of She eats the chips would be The chips eats she? What did you say, Mr. Moore? Eats needs to agree with the chips? But I thought you said verbs always had to agree with their subjects, and she is the subject, right? Uh, whatever. OK, so it would be The chips eat she, right? Why not? The chips are eaten by her? Hey, you never said I had to do stuff to the verb! And if she isn’t the subject, is it the direct object after all, just like in an active voice sentence? Does it still count as a direct object if you put in a by?”
And what will Mr. Moore’s students make of sentences like, The chips were eaten, with no subject (or direct object, whatever) at all? Oh, well, at least the cartoonist didn’t have him calling it the passive tense.