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  1. #11
    Jeanne Gassman
    Guest

    Re: Are these passive verbs?

    P. Allison,

    The insider is talking about the use of verbs that refer to a state of being. They are passive in that they do not indicate any action being performed. The "is, was, were" verbs are few of these, but so are verbs such as "seems and appears." Nothing is happening here but a link between a noun (subject) and an adjective. The result is that the writing feels (another weak verb) very flat. How do you fix this? Let's look at the excerpt you posted for a moment.

    Your version (with passive, weak "to be" verbs):
    The mornings ARE mine, and so IS this room. It IS small and the ceilings sloped, an attic transformed into a sanctuary. The house IS old, its walls full of conversations that creak stories of the past. Next to the filing cabinet IS my paint splattered and battle worn easel...

    A quick rewrite with more active, dynamic verbs:
    I own the mornings in this room with its small, narrow space and sloped ceilings. An attic transformed into my sanctuary. The walls of this old house echo with former conversations, stories of the past. My paint-splattered easel stands next to my filing cabinet like a battle-worn soldier.

    This is very choppy (and could also be an indication that you need to look at the flow in general), but I think you get the idea. Notice how the verbs connote an action. The description is no longer static, and the scene starts to come to life.

    Just my thoughts. Hope they were helpful.

    Jeanne



  2. #12
    mar quesa
    Guest

    Re: Are these passive verbs?

    P. Alison,

    You're welcome and remember this is just an opinion...

    Although Mar I admit the tie in of imagery making something passive confused me because that's not my understanding of what makes a sentence passive.

    I think that you're confusing the Passive Voice with passive in the sense of lifeless, idle...

    The Passive Voice is when the subject receives the action expressed in the verb, e.g. The house was burnt by the fire.

    That's not what you have here. Your sentences are in the Active Voice but the imagery isn't working because it doesn't conjure up anything.

    I'm not a grammar expert but I agree with Joe about verbs not being passive at all - they can be Intransitive, Transitive and Linking.

    I gave you an example, did you read it? That's from Lovely Bones. Sebold uses the verb to be often in her writing but you don't notice it at all.

    The house IS old, its walls full of conversations that creak stories of the past.

    I don't mean to be argumentative, but do you think that the verb to be is the problem here?

    Marq

  3. #13
    mar quesa
    Guest

    Re: Are these passive verbs?

    P. Alison,

    You're welcome and remember this is just an opinion...

    Although Mar I admit the tie in of imagery making something passive confused me because that's not my understanding of what makes a sentence passive.

    I think that you're confusing the Passive Voice with passive in the sense of lifeless, idle...

    The Passive Voice is when the subject receives the action expressed in the verb, e.g. The house was burnt by the fire.

    That's not what you have here. Your sentences are in the Active Voice but the imagery isn't working because it doesn't conjure up anything.

    I'm not a grammar expert but I agree with Joe about verbs not being passive at all - they can be Intransitive, Transitive and Linking.

    I gave you an example, did you read it? That's from Lovely Bones. Sebold uses the verb to be often in her writing but you don't notice it at all.

    The house IS old, its walls full of conversations that creak stories of the past.

    I don't mean to be argumentative, but do you think that the verb to be is the problem here?

    Marq

  4. #14
    P Allison
    Guest

    Re: Are these passive verbs?

    Jeanne, Marq

    I see what you both are saying and thanks for clarifying with examples, they were immensely helpful! Both from what you wrote (Jeanne) and what you referenced (Marq, Lovely Bones).

    The difference is between passive voice (in a grammar rule context) and active sentences that are nevertheless passive sounding because certain verbs flatten how something reads. If only the original critique clarified such a difference! When they said I used passive verbs with no explanation whatsoever, I was thinking I'd inadvertently violated some unknown passive voice rule regarding verbs.

    And we all know that passive voice is a big no-no in most cases, hence the hand wringing!

  5. #15
    P Allison
    Guest

    Re: Are these passive verbs?

    I meant to include you too Joe, in the thanks. Not always putting things in an "A is B" form and mixing it up for impact makes a lot of sense.

  6. #16
    Debra Storky
    Guest

    Re: Are these passive verbs?

    ...The mornings ARE mine, and so IS this room. It IS small and the ceilings sloped, an attic transformed into a sanctuary. The house IS old, its walls full of conversations that creak stories of the past. Next to the filing cabinet IS my paint splattered and battle worn easel...

    It's a pretty dull description of an attic used for painting. It's all telling, no showing. Instead of saying that the attic is a sanctuary, for instance, have her walk into the attic and immediately start breathing easier and/or relaxing her shoulders. Then we aren't told it's a sanctuary but instead are shown it through the point-of-view character. All old rooms are full of conversations. So what? To make this interesting and to bring out the character, have her remember bits of a few conversations that were really important to her. Maybe have her pat her old easel and smile a bit so we can see how much it means to her. Showing brings the character and the room alive in a way that telling doesn't do.

  7. #17
    mar quesa
    Guest

    Re: Are these passive verbs?

    P.Allison,

    The difference is between passive voice (in a grammar rule context) and active sentences that are nevertheless passive sounding because certain verbs flatten how something reads.

    I find the notion that certain verbs can flatten how something reads restrictive. I think it's more to do with how skillful a writer is at creating images.
    Can you imagine what would've happened had Shakespeare thought that the verb To Be was weak? What would've poor Hamlet said? To live or not to live, that's the question?

  8. #18
    the cat came back
    Guest

    Re: Are these passive verbs?

    Rules!

    They suck!

    The intentions behind the "rules"?

    They rule.

    :-)

  9. #19
    Rogue Mutt
    Guest

    Re: Are these passive verbs?

    I would love to see a debate between Grimey and Oberon. With so much hot air you could fly a balloon around the world a dozen times at least.

  10. #20
    the cat came back
    Guest

    Re: Are these passive verbs?

    My handle is Cat.

    My name is John Palmer.

    Can't you just be polite?

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