I've watched a lot of tennis and heard a lot of commentating. The various commentators consistently say something like:

"The forehand of Federer" instead of "Federer's forehand". Why would they do this? They must receive some sort of coaching/training for commentating, so I assume this is part of the training, but why?

It's not to say that they always speak like this, but they do it far more often then is heard in normal conversation.

  • I think this is off-topic. The folks here cannot reasonably answer why a group of commentators speak the way they speak - it would just be a debate of opinions. You could bring your question more on topic if you had questions about the meaning or grammar of this style of speech.
    – Lynn
    Jan 22 '12 at 7:25
  • Really, they can't reasonably answer my question? I figured some English experts might have a clue why a commentator would be coached to speak like that. It's along the same lines of all the questions on this site asking how to word something or what's a good word to convey a certain meaning. I thought the question was in the spirit of this site an shouldn't have been closed.
    – Chad
    Jan 23 '12 at 5:48
  • A sports commentator would probably know, but from an English perspective - both are legitimate phrasings and it's just a question of style. Now if your question was about how the different phrasings impact the meaning, or if there was a specific situation in which one could/couldn't use one or the other, that would be on-topic for the site.
    – Lynn
    Jan 24 '12 at 1:24

A construction in the passive voice consists of a combination of the auxiliary verb 'to be' and the past participle of another verb. By this grammatical definition, "the forehand of Federer" is not a passive construction.

However, the term 'passive' is also used in a less rigidly-defined sense for any use of language where the agent is either not mentioned or given less prominence. [Language Log has several articles about this: here, for example.]

By this non-linguistic defintion it could be argued that "the forehand of Federer" is 'more passive' than 'Federer's forehand'.

Bringing 'forehand' to the front of the phrase gives it greater prominence and signals that it is the forehand that we want to focus on.

  • 1
    Right, neither of them is actually passive. It's just that one makes Federer prominent and the other makes forehand prominent. If you're contrasting players or attributes of the same player, "Federer's forehand" is better. (Federer's forehand versus someone else's, Federer's forehand versus his backhang.) But if you're contrasting forehands, this structure is better, "the forehand of Federer versus the forehand of ..." Jan 22 '12 at 7:26

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