Example of a passive tense

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Example of a passive tense

by isisalaska » Sun Jan 14, 2007 4:46 pm
This is an example taken from one of the practice Manhattan test. I belive it sounds really "weird" but I guess it is correct according to the book. Any comments?


Though it had about 11 inches of snow, aviation officials said conditions on the runway at the time of the emergency landing was acceptable.

A) aviation officials said conditions on the runway at the time of the emergency landing was acceptable
B) the runway conditions during the emergency landing were acceptable according to aviation officials
C) according to aviation officials, the runway was in acceptable condition during the time of the emergency landing
D) the runway was said by aviation officials to be in acceptable condition during the emergency landing
E) aviation officials said that conditions on the runway at the time of the emergency landing were acceptable

D) is the right answer even though is a passive tense.
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by Stacey Koprince » Sat Jan 20, 2007 3:29 pm
Hi - couple of things here.

First, passive voice is not a grammar error. It is a completely valid construction. We just don't use it as often as we use active voice.

Second, don't base your choices on what sounds right or sounds weird. They know we all do this, so on harder questions, they'll make the right answer sound weird (but it will be grammatically correct) and a wrong answer sound fine (but it will contain an error).

Third, there is actually an error with the way we wrote this problem, and we've re-written it accordingly - but the error doesn't have to do with past tense or with sounding funny. And, Isis, thank you for asking about this question - if you hadn't, I wouldn't have spotted the error in the problem! :)

The new sentence reads:
Although covered in about 11 inches of snow, aviation officials said that conditions on the runway at the time of the emergency landing was acceptable.

Notice that we removed the word "it" from the opening clause. If the opening clause contains a subject, it is not a modifier and we don't have to place the subject right after the modifier - we already know what we're referring to b/c the pronoun tells us. As it reads now, above, we have an opening modifier: the words are talking about something but they don't mention whatever it is they're talking about. This is a noun modifier, and noun modifiers are required to be placed right next to the noun they modify.

So, the words are talking about the runway, not the aviation officials. We have to put the noun "runway" as the subject after the comma. Since we have to put runway right after the comma, we are also forced to write the sentence in passive voice. Even though we generally prefer active voice to passive, we cannot use it here and still have the sentence be grammatically correct.

Only answer choices C and D use the subject runway. (A and E use aviation officials and B uses conditions.) "during the time of" in C is redundant. D sounds funny... but sounding funny is not an error. Each of the others has an actual error, so D is the only one left.
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