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Can anyone give a few more common examples (or even more insight) of when we should be "switching" from English passive into Japanese active/non-passive?

(A joint effort might help a lot of us to make our Japanese more natural? I am happy to compile into one answer...)

BACKGROUND/EXAMPLES_____________________________________________

We have a number of very good questions on the use of passive verbs including:

1 Passive vs. active form of verb (past) What is the difference?

2 Passive verb forms for intransitive verbs

3 What forms of verbs (potential or passive) are more frequent in Japanese?

During the most recent it was pointed out that often when the passive is used in English the active/non-passive is preferred in Japanese, and over-use of the passive is a common problem among Japanese learners. I know an additional reference on how the passive is used in Japanese (Dict of Basic Jpse Grammar p33) but can anyone give a few more common examples (or even more insight) of when we should be "switching" from English passive into Japanese active?

(A joint effort might help a lot of us to make our Japanese more natural?)

I have added my own (possibly less common) example that recently confused me to the two recently given below.

Example 1:

ニュースに驚いた <-- Not passive

I was surprised at the news. <-- Passive

Example 2:

These cookies were made by her yesterday.

これらのクッキーは昨日、彼女によって作られました。 #1 <-- Passive

彼女が昨日これらのクッキーを作りました。#2 <-- Not passive: possibly more likely to be used

Example 3:

The armed forces were dispatched <-- passive

軍隊が出動する <-- Not passive

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1 Answer

This may not be a direct answer to your question.

I think the passive is not used as much in Japanese, because it is not as necessary. In English, the passive is used when we want to talk about "the armed forces", say, but not about who dispatched them.

The government dispatched the armed forces. active

The armed forces were dispatched. passive

Grammatically, we turn the object of the active sentence into the subject of the passive sentence and omit the subject of the active sentence. (We could recover it by appending "by the government", but that construction is somewhat cumbersome and far less frequent than the active, I would say.)

In Japanese, even the active voice doesn't need the subject though (grammatically speaking), and I would say that most if not all "する verbs" are arranged so as not to require an object, cf.

dispatch sth. vs. 出動する

It is also interesting that the passive voice in Japanese is only used when the action is performed by a human being (or animal, I suppose). For all other actions, there are transitive/intransitive verb pairs, e.g.

The window was opened (by the wind).

(風で)窓が開いた。

and not

窓が(風に)開けられた。

I would say that, while in English, the passive voice is used to take the focus away from the subject of the active sentence, in Japanese, the passive voice leaves the focus of the action on the person performing the action, whereas the emotional focus is on the subject/topic of the passive sentence. For example, in English we have

The police searched my bags.

and possibly

My bags were searched by the police.

although the former sentence sounds clearer.

In Japanese we have

警察が僕のカバンを調べた。

and

僕はカバンを警察に調べられた。

This second sentence feels like I was searched more than my bags. The latter has a more emotional component to it, which can be strengthened by using しまう, as in

僕はカバンを警察に調べられてしまった。

So all in all, I would say that the passive in English plays a very different role than the passive in Japanese. You don't need to use the passive in Japanese, but may choose to do so, if you want to focus on the emotional aspect of being subject to (no pun intended) usually an unpleasant situation performed by a living being (cf. あぁ、笑われちゃった! or 蚊に食われた!). To state an objective fact, don't use the passive.

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You've made some very interesting points. I am not sure I agree with all of them, but my disagreements (see separate comment below) are generally about use of passive in Japanese, which was not the subject of the question. Perhaps it a matter starting by asking when is the passive used in English and what is the normal equivalent in Japanese? perhaps one hypothesis is: (1) To avoid referring to the subject (because it is sensitive/unknown-same in Japanese?) (2) To place the emphasis on the "object" not the subject of the active/non-passive equivalent (3)-(continued in next comment) –  Tim Sep 13 '12 at 9:35
    
(contd from prev comment) (3) Because English lacks intransitive verbs for inanimate objects: Not sure about #3 but dispatches/出動 seems to be an example, I am hoping other people will come up with others. –  Tim Sep 13 '12 at 9:37
    
The topic of the question is not use of passive in Japanese but as you were good enough to answer my q: (1) The example 「私が雨に降られた」is an example that contradicts both the following statements: "[the] passive voice in Japanese is only used when the action is performed by a human being (or animal, I suppose)." & "You...use the passive in Japanese..to focus on the emotional aspect of being subject to..an unpleasant situation performed by a living being" (2) Are する verbs mostly transitive or can they be both transitive or intransitive (eg 勉強)...or does it vary? (cont'd in next comment) –  Tim Sep 13 '12 at 10:11
    
(contd from prev comment)It would be useful if you have a reference. [My reference on when passive - see above- is used in Japanese is quite comprehensive and fairly brief.] –  Tim Sep 13 '12 at 10:11
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