I was writing a report of my economic presentation. I had to mention that I chose three states for my studies in the introduction of the report. Since I can't use the active voice to mention this, which passive voice should I chose, passive of simple present or passive of present perfect? i.e 'are chosen' or 'have been chosen'?

  • Since it's an introduction, you could just as well use future tense: "This sentence introduces my report, within which three aspects of my report subject will be chosen for detailed analysis". Maybe it's a personal thing, but I think selected would probably be a better word than chosen. – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '14 at 13:12

Since I can't use the active voice to mention this

Well, "I chose" or "we chose" is perfectly good English. I do know that some college style-guides have a bizarre rule against this. Just remember that it's a bizarre rule of some college style-guides, rather than anything to worry about in the real world.

Aside from that, you should use whichever fits the rest of the description. The simple past "…were chosen…" seems to be the most obvious, but there are certainly reasonable sentences one could write with the other two tenses too.

"…are chosen…" would be referring the the general procedure, while "…have been chosen…" would refer to the specific case.

In conducting this sort of study, the states are chosen on the basis of…

In conducing this study, the states have been chosen on the basis of…


If the goal of such constructions is to avoid first-person subjects ("I chose these three states because..."), then an alternative to the passive voice (which can be irritating in continuous use) is to reify the choosing into a noun phrase ("The choice of three states to study rests on these considerations...").

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    "The choice of three states to study was dictated by..." is still in the passive voice... – msam Feb 28 '14 at 13:29
  • @msam: I modified my alternative, strictly to avoid passive voice. However my larger point is that the rule in "academic writing" is usually not to require passive voice but to avoid first-person subjects (which can also be irritating in continuous use). – hardmath Feb 28 '14 at 13:42
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    I have certainly heard of students being instructed to write in the passive as a means to that end, though it strikes me as just as wrong as the common wrongheaded idea that one should avoid the passive that is found in writing advice elsewhere. For that matter avoiding the first person seems unscientific to me; the goal is to convey objectivity, but real objectivity admits to what is at risk of being subjective, while pretending to greater objectivity is a very subjective thing to do. – Jon Hanna Feb 28 '14 at 14:02
  • If it is desirable to mention oneself, in journal publications it is accepted to do so in the third person, e.g. "The second named author had conjectured that...". – hardmath Feb 28 '14 at 15:06
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    The author of this comment is aware of this convention, though said author still maintains that this is favouring surface artefacts associated with objectivity, over objectivity. The author agrees that those writing such papers would still be well-advised to follow what is expected. – Jon Hanna Feb 28 '14 at 16:13

According to an earlier post here (sorry I don't have time to find it) the difference between "are chosen" and "have been chosen" is that, the latter delivers the meaning you did it. The "are chosen" means rather than it is chosen, but the person who did it's not defined.

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    They're both passive, so the agent ("person who did it") could be omitted in either case. Conversely, the agent could be added in either case. – Jon Hanna Feb 28 '14 at 12:59

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