Defensive Passive Voice
Someone uses the passive voice to obscure the fact they did something wrong


(permanent link) added: 2012-10-16 15:17:47 sponsor: johnnye (last reply: 2012-10-17 18:02:43)

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Alice has dropped Bob's Priceless Ming Vase on the floor, and when he walks in on the scene of carnage and asks what happened, what does she say?

"It... got broken". Cue guilty expression. She's not blaming anyone else, she's not even making a particular effort to pretend it wasn't her... she just can't quite bring herself to utter the phrase "I broke it."

Many overzealous style guides recommend never using the passive voice at all on the basis that it always sounds evasive, but it's a perfectly ordinary way of speaking in cases when the object of the verb is the focus of the sentence, or the subject is unknown. As such, examples should be of characters deliberately trying to duck blame for something they (or someone they're covering for) have done.

Occasionally subverted as "It got broken. By me."

See also Strange Syntax Speaker.

Examples

  • Fresh Meat, Josie tells Kingsley that "Heather's arm got broken," only for Vod to walk in and correct her that to "No, you broke it." She goes through several other excuses only for other characters to walk in each time and repeat that she broke Heather's arm.
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