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December 16, 2020

How to use the passive voice in a report

How to use the passive voice in reports


Hey, welcome to another free episode of the Art of Business English podcast.


In this week's episode I am sharing with you some tips on how you can use the passive voice in your reports.


Do you write reports for work? If so, then you will definitely need to check out this episode. Using the passive voice in your writing will help it to sound more formal and less personal. This is ideal for a report, as a report is a piece of writing that has a neutral to formal tone.

Watch the episode here

The Passive Form

The active voice shows what something does. The passive voice shows what happens to something. We make the passive with a form of the verb be + past participle.


Tense

passive form: be + past participle (+by + agent)

Present simple

the union is run by 7 executive officers.

present continuous

the union is being run by 7 executive officers.

Past simple

the union was run by 7 executive officers.

Past continuous

the union was being run by 7 executive officers.

Present perfect

the union has been run by 7 executive officers.

Past perfect

the union had been run by 7 executive officers.

Going to

the union is going to  be run by 7 executive officers.

Will

the union will be run by 7 executive officers

Other forms

Infinitive

the union is to be run by 7 executive officers.

-ing form

the university insists on the union being run by 7 executive officers.

Used to

the university used to be run by 7 executive officers.

Modals

the university should be run by 7 executive officers.

Need to/ have to

 the university needs to/ has to be run by 7 executive officers.

Need + -ing

the university needs running by 7 executive officers.

We do not use the passive with intransitive verbs (verbs which cannot have an object):

He arrived (not he was arrived)

Use of the Passive 

We use the passive when:

When the object is more important than the subject and the agent is either obvious, not important, or unknown:

  • When the object is more important than the subject and the agent is either obvious, not important, or unknown. Example:
    All applications are processed on the spot (it is obvious that it is the Government employee who does this)
  • In formal writing to make it less personal. Example: You are advised to return the application form within three days. (Impersonal)
  • The active voice is more direct and personal. Example: I advise you to return the application form within three days.
  • When we describe a process. Example: The union is run by seven executive officers who are elected by students.
  • We do not generally use the passive for natural (or biological) processes, where people are not involved (e.g. the carbon cycle). Example: Plants take up carbon dioxide from the air as part of photosynthesis.

Notice how if we want to repeat the ending of the previous clause or sentences at the beginning of the next, we may need to use the passive:


Examples:

Does the university run the union?

No, the union is run by seven executive officers

Who are elected by students each year.


Examples:

The executive officers are held accountable by the union council.

The council is also elected by the student’s population.


This pattern is typical of academic writing.

Tips for Report Writing

Tips:

  • Make sure you introduce the topic by providing background information and stating the aim of the report
  • Make sure you use a title and sub-headings to help guide the reader
  • Make sure you use neutral or formal language depending on the target reader
  • Make sure you use the passive voice to make the report more formal and less personal

Expressions for your Report

Opening:

  • The aim/purpose of this report is to...
  • The focus of this report is…

Comparing and contrasting:

  • There is a growing disparity between…
  • There is a clear distinction between

Comparing and contrasting:

  • In light of the above, the following recommendations should be adopted.
  • In view of the problems outlined in this report, adopting the recommendations in this report would…

Final thoughts


So, that is how we use the passive voice in formal writing and that is how you can implement it in your next report. 


Please feel free to drop me your comments below and I will be happy to clarify any questions that you may have. 


Be sure to stay with me next week as I complete this series into the passive. We will be looking at using the passive for reporting information and talking about services. 


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Andrew


Andrew is the CEO and founder of the Art of Business English. Besides teaching and coaching native Spanish speakers in Business English, he is also passionate about mountain biking, sailing and healthy living. When He is not working, Andrew loves to spend time with his family and friends.

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