JS Tip 24: From the Writing Workshops: Having Fun with Passive Voice

Joe Collet, of Lutheran Hour Ministries, suggested we have some fun with passive voice. He suggested—since we can’t find any memorable quotations in passive voice—we invent some. He suggested we take famous quotations in active and twist them into passive.

For example—

“Paris will always be had by us.” (Rick to Ilsa in Casablanca)

“Liberty must be given to me or death must be given to me!” (Patrick Henry)

“The truth can’t be handled by you!” (Colonel Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men

“A dream is being had by me.” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)  

“Ahead must be gone. My day must be made.” (Harry Callahan in Sudden Impact)  

Have fun. Make up your own. The exercise demonstrates how awkward passive voice can be.

Next week, we’ll end our series on passive voice with a discussion of the few times, the two times, passive voice might be appropriate.

Some other possibilities:

“The force must be trusted.” (Obi-wan Kenobi)

“You don’t understand. Class coulda been had by me. A contender coulda been me. Somebody coulda been me, instead of a bum, which is what I am.”  

“I am called Mister Tibbs by them!”

“The truth can’t be handled by you!”



And a real-world, memorable quotation in passive voice:

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”