Active & Passive Voice
Dangling & Misplaced Modifiers
Active Voice, Passive Voice
The active voice is the "normal" voice. This is the voice
that we use most of the time. You are probably already
familiar with the active voice. In the active voice, the
object receives the action of the verb
The passive voice is less usual. In the passive voice, the
subject receives the action of the verb
Appropriate form of the be verb + past participle of main verb of
Subject and object noun phrases voice switch positions (from
Active: Joe ate the sandwich.
Passive: The sandwich was eaten by Joe.
The subject of the active sentence can be used in an adverbial phrase in the passive
sentence. This phrase is called the by-phrase.
Ex: Paper money was invented by the Chinese.
The by-phrase is not required. It should be used only when it provides important
Ex: My car was stolen last night by a thief.
The by-phrase in the sentence above can be left out because only thieves steal.
Ex: My car was stolen last night by a 12-year-old boy.
In the second example, a more interesting by-phrase is used.
The passive voice can be used with any verb tense.
Meaning of the passive voice : Shift in focus
Many verbs can have either an active or a passive form. The active form is used when the
writer wants to focus on the actor or the actors.
Active: All students at this school must take English composition before they graduate.
Many international students worry about this course because it is difficult for students
who are not native speakers of English.
However, sometimes a writer wants to focus on the information that would be in the
direct object in an active sentence. The passive sentence puts this information in the
Passive: English composition must be taken by all students at this school before they
graduate. The course involves both argumentative and expository writing.
Uses of the passive voice
1. Actor is unknown
Ex: My bicycle was stolen last night.
Ex: The building was set on fire.
2. Actor is obvious or unimportant
Ex: Pineapples are grown in Hawaii.
Ex: The yuan is used in China.
3. Actor is hidden (to avoid assigning or accepting blame or to be kind)
Ex: The door was broken last night.
Ex: Mistakes were made.
4. Actor is not the focal point
Ex: A new theater was built near East West Shopping Center.
Ex: The English club meeting was held in the meeting room.
5. A piece of work is the focal point rather than the creator
Ex: Avatar was directed by James Cameron.
Ex: The Last Supper was painted by Leonardo da Vinci.
to BE gives us the tense of the action
the principal verb is always in Past Participle
THE PASSIVE VERB
to BE (in the active tense) + Past Participle (main verb)
She wants an ice-cream An ice-cream is wanted
He sent a letter A letter was sent
We will buy a new car next week A new car will be bought
They have been cutting the grass The grass has been being cut
Parallelism shows that two or more ideas are equally important by stating them in a
grammatically parallel form.
It means to put all items in a series in the same grammatical form: Singular with
singulars, Plurals with plurals, nouns with nouns, active with actives and passives with
passives and etc.
Grammatical parallelism is the result of coordination. When a coordinating conjunction
is used to combine words, those words must be the same part of speech. The examples
show parallelism when nouns, verbs, and adjective are combined using coordinating
In grammar class, we study nouns, verbs, prepositions, articles, and many other
In grammar class, we read, write, talk, and listen.
This class is difficult but important.
1. In sentences with several items in the passive voice, the
auxiliary may be repeated each time or used before the first item
Ex: The prisoner was arrested, was tried and was found guilty.
The prisoner was arrested, tried, and found guilty.
2. The same principle applies to the use of articles, preposition or
even the to-infinitive in a series. The key is to be consistent.
Ex: James keeps his money everywhere, in the drawers, in the
bottles, and in the shoes!
3.Mixing gerunds and infinitives in the same series is a
common parallelism error.
For example: My summer hobbies are hiking, boating and to go
It should be: My summer hobbies are hiking, boating and
What to do?!
Descriptive words must be balanced.
For example: The students are required to complete their assignment
within a short period of time, and that restricts their ability to express
their ideas imaginatively, creatively, and innovatively
Correlative conjunctions like neither…nor, either…or, not only…but
also… must also pair parallel ideas.
For example: She should either send her children to that tuition centre
or teach them herself.
His speech not only outraged his opponents, but also cost him the
support of his own party.
The items in a list must be kept in the same form.
For example: A student ought to be punctual, obedient, and respect
It should be respectful because the previous words are adjectives.
A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes or
changes the meaning of another word, phrase or clause in
A modifier is a word or word group that functions as an
adjective or an adverb.
A modifier should be placed as close as possible to the
word or words it modifies – ideally, directly before or
Modifiers provide information about a noun or pronoun
that appears right before or right after it in the sentence.
Example- Steve Jobs, using his garage as a workshop,
invented the personal computer.
Dangling participle modifiers
Participle phrases are ones that being with [verb + ing] or [verb +ed] and are
not used as subjects. When a participial phrase does not modify the noun or
pronoun that usually follows it, it is said to be dangling or just hanging there in
the sentence and not modifying the subject of the main clause. The subject of
the main clause must be responsible for the two actions, the one in the
participle and the one in the main verb.
Incorrect: Running down the street, the taxi passed right by the man.
Running down the street is the participial phrase, but it does not modify the
subject, taxi, the word immediately following the phrase. Ask the question:
“Was the taxi running down the street?” No, it was the man. Correct the
sentence as follows:
Correct: Running down the street, the man missed the taxi.
(He was running down the street, and he missed the taxi).
A modifier describes or limits other words in a sentence. A modifier “dangles”
because it cannot logically describe any word or word group in the sentence.
Often a dangling modifier comes at the beginning of a sentence and appears to
modify the noun or pronoun that follows it.
A dangling modifier appears to modify either the wrong word or no word
at all because the word it should logically modify is missing from the
sentence. To correct a dangling modifier, add the missing word and
rewrite the rest of the sentence as necessary.
Using my computer, the report was finished in two
How can the report use a computer?
The word to which the modifier should logically refer
is not included in the sentence. To correct this
sentence, you need to supply the missing word.
Using my computer, the report was finished in two
Using my computer, I finished the report in two days.
Sitting in the dentist’s chair, the sound of the
drill made Larry sweat.
• Corrected version:
Sitting in the dentist’s chair, Larry sweated at the sound
of the drill.
A misplaced modifier is in the wrong place in a sentence, so the reader thinks it modifies
the wrong word or cannot figure out what it is modifying.
A misplaced modifier appears to modify the wrong word in a sentence.
A misplaced modifier means that there is a separation of space between the word,
phrase, or clause and the modifier.
When a modifier is misplaced, your meaning gets really fuzzy.
They often distort the meaning of the sentence or make it impossible for the reader to
understand the meaning.
Misplaced modifiers seem to describe words that the author did not intend them to
Generally, the solution is to place the modifier as close as possible to the word or words it
Example: I was chased by a dog wearing my pajamas.
The modifier wearing my pajamas is in the wrong spot: it is closer to dog than to I.
Revised: Wearing my pajamas, I was chased by a dog.
Single-word modifiers, such as often and almost are often misplaced:
Example: I almost made $200 for the lawn-mowing job.
So did the job not happen? If the writer means that he or she made almost $200 for the
job, then the modifier needs to be placed immediately before the word (or words) being
Revised: I made almost $200 for the lawn-mowing job.
Sam bought a used car from a local dealer with
a smoky tailpipe.
• Corrected version:
Sam bought a used car with a smoky tailpipe from
a local dealer.
Watch Those Adverbs!
Placement of adverbs (many words that end in –ly are adverbs) can change meanings to funny
We drove off in the car we had just bought quickly.
Did we buy the car quickly, or did we drive the car quickly?
We quickly drove off in the car we had just bought.
Okay! We must have made a great deal and were afraid the dealership would change its mind!
Other adverbs that don’t end in –ly to watch:
Only, just, almost.
Troublesome Words That Indicate Number….
Almost and nearly mean close to – nouns can be counted; verbs cannot be counted, so these
words should be next to the noun.
He nearly swam for an hour.
How can somebody nearly swim? Is he in the water, or is he on dry land?
He swam for nearly an hour.
It almost cost me $800 for my car insurance.
Do you have any car insurance? If it almost cost you, did you actually get the policy, or did you find a
cheaper one someplace else?
It cost me almost $800 for my car insurance.
Misplaced Prepositional Phrases
When you place a prepositional phrase in the wrong place, all sorts of funny things can happen. Be
Christine made the brownies for her aunt with chocolate icing.
What is a woman doing running around covered in chocolate icing?
Christine made brownies with chocolate icing for her aunt.