Passive voice in headlines and real-life examples

If you want to revise how and why to use passive voice in English, you may watch this video:

(annotated pdf file of the presentation used in the video here)

Headlines (both newspaper headlines and TV / radio headlines) tend to use passive voice structures. Why? Because that way:

a. you can make the relevant information the focus of information, by placing it at the beginning of the sentence:
A Lidl employee is believed to have been fired for working too much. 
Paul McCartney is considered the “most successful songwriter in history”. 
b. you can be more impersonal in your statements:
It is estimated that cyber crime costs global economy $445 billion a year. (*)
Cybercrime is estimated to cost global economy $445 billion a year. 
It is now believed that dinosaurs were killed by the fallout from the impact between a comet and an asteroid. (*)
Dinosaurs are now believed to have been killed by the fallout from the impact between a comet and an asteroid. 
(*) The “It is believed…” option tends to be used only in writing, and only in certain kinds of writing: academic writing, for example, when you want to sound “scientific”, or “impersonal / detached” from the information you’re giving. On the contrary, for headlines, the alternative option (He is believed to …) is much more common.

 

Some examples in the news:

  • Nissan is understood to have decided to cancel plans to expand its operations in Sunderland. (…)
  • The Japanese car maker Nissan is expected to announce next week that it’s cancelling planned investment in its plant in Sunderland. (…)
  • It’s now thought the announcement will lead to immediate job losses.

Go to this form (opens in new tab), where you can find many examples of active sentences (which in English may sound a bit too artificial, to be honest), and turn them into passive sentences, so that they can be more appropriate to the context (headlines):

As you will see, some of the feedback for your answers contains clips from real news where these sentences are used.

You can also find many headlines featuring passive voice on the handout below. Most of them, as headlines typically do, omit many grammatical elements, such as articles, auxiliaries…The links and the QR codes take you to the source of the article / headline:

(Open in new tab)

One comment on “Passive voice in headlines and real-life examples

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