enter image description here I have been reading Micheal Swan's English Grammar. There is a point in passive section:

  • We hope to make a profit this year (active)

But it cannot be made passive as:

*It is hoped to make a profit this year (wrong)

Why is it wrong ?

  • 2
    It says so right there in the text: some verbs can be passivised this way, but most cannot. Hope cannot. There is no more reason than that: it's just a property of the verb whether it allows this type of passivisation. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 27 '17 at 8:06
  • 1
    "Idiom" is the general reason for the acceptability of some constructs and the unacceptability of other, yet parallel constructs. In this case, however, you can find many uses in print of "it is hoped". This is just Mr. Swan's opinion, one that others have chosen to ignore. – deadrat Jan 27 '17 at 10:20
  • 'It is hoped to make a profit this year' sounds contentious and 'A profit is hoped to be made this year' unacceptable. With some verbs, passivisation is resisted (more or less strongly). Compare the idiosyncratic behaviour of 'have': 'A good time was had by all' and *'A ball was had by us'. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 25 '19 at 15:26

The problem with the passive voice of 'It is hoped' is that standards have changed. Where once the voice carried a regal formality, today it is awkward and screams for attention.

In the phrase It is hoped, who did the hoping? It does not say, a red flag suggesting a mystery. Now, if we have that hope, just say that we hoped. If we are the agent taking action, why would we hide that responsibility?

Occasionally, there are good reasons to reach for the passive voice. You might not be able to identify the agent: Stores nearby were burglarized. Or you better not say, such as in meeting minutes where participants like to bury their opinion. In that case, you can still avoid A point was raised concerning... by saying The committee considered the suggestion that...

The classic spoof of the passive voice, A good time was had by all, displays the problem: Aside from the clumsy construction, does it sound like anyone had a good time, let alone that all had a good time?


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.