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What is wrong with this? I have quintupple checked it, but grammarly tells me that I have passive voice misuse. Can someone help?

"The Japanese were warned that one of their cities, Hiroshima, which is also where their 2nd army was, would vanish."

marked as duplicate by tchrist Aug 12 '18 at 18:07

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  • 1
    It looks OK to my (admittedly) inexpert eyes. Don't trust automatic grammar checkers. Even better, don't use them. – Mick Jan 31 '17 at 23:13
  • 2
    Yes, you're using a passive. If Grammarly doesn't like it, stop using Grammarly. – Colin Fine Jan 31 '17 at 23:22
  • Trust me those grammar checkers are useless. – Grizzly Jan 31 '17 at 23:24
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    For a better wording of the sentence, I suggest: The Japanese were warned that one of their cities, Hiroshima (where their Second Army was), would vanish. Or: The Japanese were warned that Hiroshima, the location of their Second Army, would vanish. (As for the second sentence, I removed "one of their cities" because the phrase may not be needed--unless your readers do not know that Hiroshima is a city in Japan. – rhetorician Jan 31 '17 at 23:46
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    I think there's a tense problem? Should "which is also where their 2nd army was" by "which was also where their 2nd army was". Not the best phrasing, either way. – jimm101 Feb 1 '17 at 0:46

Ignore it. This is the outcome of rule creep: gradually escalating sound syntactical advice into a senseless grammatical "rule".

Level 1: Overuse of the passive can definitely be a stylistic vice (yes, that's vice, not device).

Level 2: Overuse of the passive is frequent enough that many teachers and writers on style find it necessary to issue stern warnings against it.

Level 3: Insensitive writers on style have been known to elevate such warnings against overuse of the passive to deprecation of any use of the passive.

Level 4: Incompetent editors and grammar checkers mechanically mark every use of the passive as an 'error'.

  • Well, at least it was in the passive. Half the time when an incompetent editor complains about passive it isn't even an example of it. – Jon Hanna Feb 1 '17 at 1:38
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    @JonHanna Been reading Pullum 2009 again?! It's good to visit in midwinter: always cheers me up. – StoneyB Feb 1 '17 at 1:48

Use of the passive in English varies with writing style and field. Some publications' style sheets discourage use of the passive voice, while others encourage it. If you are discouraged from using the passive voice then you need to pay attention to grammar checkers such as Grammarly.

When looking at passive voice there is an example where

"Caesar was stabbed by Brutus" is in the passive voice. The subject, Caesar, indicates the person acted upon. The agent is expressed here with the phrase by Brutus, but this can be omitted. The equivalent sentence in the active voice is "Brutus stabbed Caesar", in which the subject denotes the doer, or agent, Brutus.

So the sentence you have is in the passive voice as the subject is the Japanese who were warned. To change to an active (non-passive) voice you need to add who gave the warning and rearrange the first part of the sentence. If it was the Chinese who warned the Japanese, you could say

The Chinese warned the Japanese that one of their cities.....

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