Example sentences:

The place was deserted.

The cars were red.

My grammar checker keeps flagging up linking verbs (was / were) as passive. How am I supposed to rewrite it?

(I suspect it's not a major grammar problem and that I can ignore this).

closed as primarily opinion-based by Edwin Ashworth, NVZ, oerkelens, Skooba, Rob_Ster Jan 28 '18 at 3:49

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 3
    It's a major problem with your grammar checker. Can't you turn it off? – Edwin Ashworth Jan 26 '18 at 8:59
  • 2
    Ignore your grammar checker. There's nothing wrong with the passive anyway. – Araucaria Jan 26 '18 at 9:42

In some ways, linking verbs are passive. For example:
"I am frightened" has a linking verb, 'am', and an adjective, 'frightened'.
"I am frightened by the unknown" uses the passive voice of the verb 'to frighten'.
The question you should really be asking about anything flagged as 'passive' is whether you have chosen the best subject for the idea you want to express. The passive voice has a legitimate place! Which is more important in these two sentences, the lion or the man?
(a) "The lion ate the man."
(b) "The man was eaten by the lion."
If your focus is on the man, then the passive sentence (b) is the one you should probably prefer.

  • The passive has been covered in depth before on ELU, including advice on when it is best used and why. As has the ambiguity of sentences like 'The window was broken.' – Edwin Ashworth Jan 26 '18 at 10:23
  • @EdwinAshworth way to go to encourage and helpfully guide newcomers to be part of the team! Yay! Comment, yes. Disagree, yes, DV because a newcomer doesn't know that the passive has been discussed to death on EL&U seems excessive. – Mari-Lou A Jan 26 '18 at 10:33
  • Edwin's advice about the grammar checker is valid, and I accept it. And I find the point Ross makes, "the best subject for the idea," useful. – user278302 Jan 26 '18 at 11:17
  • @EdwinAshworth, I might have left it alone if you had flagged as a duplicate to begin with - in addition to your snide remark about grammar checkers. – Ross Murray Jan 26 '18 at 11:19
  • It would help if people would check for duplicates themselves where there is a likelihood that such a topic has already been covered in the 90 000+ questions here already. I almost always check when I submit an answer (there are times when a search would take a ridiculous amount of time). Perhaps it's the people who spend a lot of time trying to maintain the credibility and trimness of the site who should be encouraged, @Mari-Lou A. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 26 '18 at 12:16

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