Grammar Review Exercises

[The following exercises have been prepared by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College, Nanaimo, BC.  These pages are in the public domain and may be used, in whole or in part, by anyone, without permission and without charge, provided the source is acknowledged.  Last revised April 2002]

Active and Passive Verbs


Most English verbs have two voices, the Active and the Passive. Learn the difference between these two, noting carefully that this is not a matter of tense (present, past, or future) but deals with the question of whether or not the subject is the source or the recipient of the action in the verb.

As a general rule, for a clear style, you should avoid the passive voice, unless you have a compelling reason for doing so.

2.0 Exercise in Active and Passive Verbs

Indicate in the following sentences whether the verbs in bold are in the active or passive voice. Remember a verb that describes a condition (rather than an action) is always active (e.g., the verb to be or to become). How would you rewrite the sentence to get rid of the passive verb (i.e., put it into the active form).

1. The dog ate its master's food and was punished by his master for the misbehaviour.

2. This passage is used by the author to bring out the ambiguous nature of the setting.

3. It has been determined that the fees at Malaspina University-College are much too low. The students do not agree.

4. When the general meaning of this passage is considered, we see that it has an effect different from the rest of this chapter.

5. Shakespeare has been dead for many years, but his plays are still read by millions of people every year, and productions of his plays are often put on by amateur and professional theatre companies all over the world.

6. The research team found that the accident was caused by a faulty O-ring in one of the main engines; this item was shrunk beyond specification by the unusually cold weather.

7. The surveying team arrived at the site at 10:00 a.m. First, a baseline was measured, and then random plots were designed, and finally, the standard sampling was done.

8. The imagery in this poem is used to create a sense of despair, and this sense is reinforced by the words which have been chosen by the author.

9. Once it is recommended by the courts that the government owes its workers a massive sum for pay equity, then the government must abide by the decision.

10. Scientists have discovered that AIDS is caused by a complex combination of viral agents.

3.0 Exercise on Passive Verbs

Rewrite the following passage getting rid of the passive verbs and improving the punctuation by providing commas where necessary.

Modernism a very common term in discussions of modern culture is difficult to define since so many definitions have been offered by many different people. The term is used by many writers to refer to new styles in painting music art poetry and prose in the last hundred and forty years or so from about 1850 to 1995 but what exactly is meant by the term. After searching through a number of cultural dictionaries, it is obvious that the question cannot be answered easily, any such answer will depend upon how the term has been defined by a particular writer in a particular discipline, Modernism to a historian of European literature for example may well mean in fact probably will mean something significantly different than what Modernism means to a historian of music for example. If we look at the history of English poetry it can be concluded that there is a fair amount of agreement that the Modernist movement in poetry began in England early in the century shortly before World War one when a new movement was started by a small group of poets in London. This new group which called its artistic style Imagism sought to reform the tradition of writing poetry in English, among its members was the young brash talented American Ezra Pound who quickly emerged as the leading public spokesperson for the group. A number of manifestos were published by Pound urging that certain new principles should be followed by all good poets. New rhythms free verse and a concentration on concise imagery were included in his recommendations for the new poetry.


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