Passive & Active Voice in The Office

In an episode of NBC’s hit show The Office, inept manager Michael Scott makes an important announcement to his staff:

Ladies and gentlemen, I have some bad news. Meredith was hit by a car. …It happened this morning in the parking lot. I took her to the hospital and the doctors tried to save her life. They did the best they could and she is going to be okay.”

His staff is upset with him for making it sound like Meredith had died, but he’s using passive voice to conceal the worse of it. Only after someone has the idea of going to the security tapes to identify the car, does he finally admit his role in the accident (using active voice):

“I ran down Meredith in my car.”

 

Compare the differences in these constructions:

PASSIVE (hides the actor)

“Meredith was hit by a car.” & “It happened this morning in the parking lot.”

ACTIVE (actor performs verb)

“I ran down Meredith in my car.”

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