My girlfriend teaches English to little German kids. Recently, the had a lesson about the “passive” and “active” mode, which was utterly confusing to the kids. Why would they need such a strange concept?
Now, you’re most likely not a school kid anymore, but here’s a refresher anyway: active mode means that the sentence makes the actor clear. An example would be “Jürgen shot the ball.”
Passive mode, on the other hand, means that the sentence provides no information whatsoever about who’s acting. Example: “The ball was shot.”
So far, so good. Those two different modes add diversity to the language. If you told a story just using active mode, it would soon become boring. “I did this … then I did that … then he …”. Yeah. Not the greatest writing style.
Passive mode also helps express certain scenarios where an active mode simply wouldn’t make sense, and allows to put the object acted upon instead of the actor into the focus.
And yet, if the passive mode didn’t exist, communication would be at least twice as effective as it is today.
When trying to get things done in a team, the biggest problem is often that nobody feels responsible for a given task — until it is too late. Why does this happen?
Most likely because the responsibility was not communicated clearly. “The task needs to be done.” “The event venue should be booked this week.” “An invitation will be sent.” The common denominator here: all passive mode, and absolutely no indication on who is actually going to execute those tasks.
If you flip the sentences, the indication becomes clearer: “Ulf needs to do this task.” “Jens should book the event venue this week.” “Beate will send an invitation this week.”
Side note here: a common caveat when using active mode is saying “we should do this and that.” “we” (or “they”) isn’t very clear either, since no one assumes responsibility and thus suffers from the same phenomenon as active mode.
When you want to do shit, use active mode. Else, it won’t get done. Doesn’t matter whether it is oral or written communication — make absolutely clear who is responsible for a certain task. And the easiest way to do so is simply to eliminate passive mode from your vocabulary in this context.
Would a school kid be happy knowing all this? I don’t know. They don’t manage that much, I would assume. However, I think they’d love simply not dealing with such grammatical structures — so they’d probably support this point of view.