英语写作 | 如何正确使用被动语态?

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被动语态很容易理解,但在使用时是有策略的,它可以成为作家们一个重要的能耐。被动语态让作者将句子与周围环境联系起来,把焦点放在动作的宾语而非主语上。让我们看一下摘自2018年《纽约时报》杂志中的一段文字:

The Murphy bed offered a solution. Each morning, we wake up, pile pillows and blankets in the corner and push the bed up, where it slips into an upright frame so discreet that your eye slides right over it. Presto: The bedroom is transformed into a work space. At night, the contraption is flipped down again, the linen goes back on and we take advantage of a minor engineering marvel ….

这是一段关于一个狭窄公寓的空间介绍。第二句说到把床推起来,第三句是关于卧室的变化,第四句又说到床的变化。使用主动语态就会让焦点从床上移开,扰乱了段落的统一性。我们试着用主动语态替换第三句和第四句:

The Murphy bed offered a solution. Each morning, we wake up, pile pillows and blankets in the corner and push the bed up, where it slips into an upright frame so discreet that your eye slides right over it. Presto: we transform the bedroom into a work space. At night, we flip the contraption down again, put the linen back on and take advantage of a minor engineering marvel ….

这段文字就从关于床转移到了要睡觉的人。

被动语态也让作者们能引出情况并详细解释。另一篇来自《纽约时报》杂志名为Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty. They’re Not的文章中,我们看到某段初始用到被动语态:

American workers are being shut out of the profits they are helping to generate.
美国工人被排除在他们帮助创造的利润之外。

段落中后续的部分回答了被动动词所提及的复杂问题。用主动语态改写句子就会丢失解释性,并且重复说明。这就会是:

The decline of unions, the imbalance of the economy, and the loss of good-paying jobs are shutting American workers out of the profits they help to generate.

有时,及物动词的代词也可以是一个很长又很复杂的名词,所以需要放在句尾。下面是一篇来自《纽约客》文章的例子,文章名为The Mystery of People Who Speak Dozens of Languages

The word“hyperpolyglot” was coined two decades ago, by a British linguist, Richard Hudson, who was launching an Internet search for the world’s greatest language learner.

要是你试着把以上句子转换成主动语态,句子就会失去平衡,自我崩塌。于是,我们可以看到:

Two decades ago, a British linguist, Richard Hudson, who was launching an Internet search for the world’s greatest language learner, coined the word “hyperpolyglot.”

最后,在定语从句和并列从句中,为了并行性或一致性通常有必要采取被动语态。这里还有两个来自《大西洋报》的例子:

But, from a small sample of prodigies who have been tested by neurolinguists, responded to online surveys, or shared their experience in forums, a partial profile has emerged.

He estimated that hundreds of people were either trapped by the waters or remaining in place to protect their homes from looters.

要是将这些例子改写为主动语态就会很别扭。

我们可以找到许多类似的优雅的被动语态例句。被动语态是一个非常有用的工具,当我们在使用之时甚至都没有注意到它的存在。乔治·奥威尔(George Orwell)曾解释到,在拙劣的写作中“任何可能的情况下都优先使用被动语态而不是主动语态,而名词结构代替了动名词。”

(本文转载自微信公众号:牛津辞典)

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