Passive voice? What is the correction?


These victims’ lives were reduced to that of a soap opera.

asked Aug 03 '12 at 04:29 Lauren New member

4 answers


Again, passive is a matter of style. It is not automatically wrong.


In the active voice, the subject of the sentence acts, in the passive voice, the subject is acted upon. To make this sentence active, you must say who or what reduced the victims' lives to ....


Some academic disciplines -- especially in the hard sciences -- require research papers to be written in the passive voice. Other college-level composition guides respond to research that suggests the active voice retains the reader's interest longer, suggest that papers include no more than 25% sentences. In my own writing -- a cultural landscape history -- I am trying to use less than 1% passive voice sentences. However, this is a style choice on my part, and I find plenty of situations where the passive voice cannot be avoided.

link comment answered Aug 03 '12 at 05:07 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

As Sanjay points out, "that of" is used to make a comparision -- in this case between the victim's lives and a soap opera. This may not be a proper comparision. A more apt comparision would be to the characters in a soap opera, and not the drama itself.


When the comparision is to a single-word noun, it is preferred to use the noun in possessive form.


Adam's problem is similar to John's is preferred to Adam's problem is similar to that of John.


That of is the preferred usage with long noun phrases. Whether that of is used with two-word noun phrases -- like soap opera -- is a matter for debate. If the two-word noun can be turned into a possessive without causing confusion, then the possessive is preferred.


These victims’ lives were reduced to a soap opera's.


But in this form, we see the problem with the comparision.


These victims’ lives were reduced to that of a soap opera character.

link answered Aug 03 '12 at 05:49 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Thank you very much. Now, it makes sense to me.

sanjayAug 03 '12 at 05:59

I will up-vote you, Sir.

sanjayAug 03 '12 at 05:59

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"that of" is used when you compare two things. In my view, your sentence does not make sense to me. "Soap opera" means


 1. A drama, typically performed as a serial on daytime television or radio, characterized by stock characters and situations, sentimentality, and melodrama.


2. A series of experiences characterized by dramatic displays of emotion.


"reduce" means to reduce is to make something smaller or to become or feel smaller, or forcing someone into a less desirable position.


I am not a professional grammarian.  We both have to wait for the other experts to pitch in to answer your question.

link edited Aug 03 '12 at 17:46 sanjay Expert

Sanjay, you got a job as a grammarian? Lauren's sentence is 95% correct. She is making a comparison between the victim's lives and the tragedies that befall stock characters in a soap opera. She needs to make the comparison more explicit. Reduced is used properly. See my second answer.

Jeff PribylAug 03 '12 at 05:52

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link comment answered Dec 22 '15 at 16:21 Misherlae Pace New member

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