Passive voice with reporting verbs
In news reports and formal writing, it is common to use the passive forms of reporting verbs (verbs of saying or believing). Using this resource allows us to give information when we don’t know for sure whether it is true or not. We distance ourselves from the information.
Reporting verbs are verbs such as agree, announce, believe, claim, consider, expect, hope, know, report, say, suggest, think, understand, etc. And we can use their passive form for distancing in two different ways.
it is said that …
It+ passive reporting verb + that + clause (subject + verb)
- It is believed that the murderer is no longer in the country.
- It has been announced that they are going to cancel the tour.
- It has been suggested that the team can’t be trusted defensively.
- It was thought that the building could collapse.
they are said to be
Subject + passive reporting verb + to + infinitive …
- He is thought to be a close associate of the terrorist.
- The terrorist is believed to have fled to the mountains.
When we use this pattern, we use the simple infinitive or the continuous infinitive when the reported action is simultaneous to the reporting.
- He is said to be an art collector.
- They were believed to be secretly in love.
- They are thought to be living under strict protection.
We can also use the simple infinitive to refer to the future.
- She is expected to become a super star.
We use the perfect infinitive or the perfect continuous infinitive when the reported action is previous to the reporting (earlier in the past).
- She was thought to have left the previous week.
- He is claimed to have hit another student.
- He is known to have been hiding somewhere in Panama since he escaped.
there are said to be
We can also use the same structure with the pronoun there.
- There are said to be new leads on the case.
- There is believed to be a new donor who is partially financing the campaign.
seem / appear
We can also use the verbs seem and appear for distancing ourselves from the information we are giving.
it seems/appears that + clause
- It seems/appears that the new series will begin shooting in about two months.
it would seem/appear that
It means the same as it seems that, but it more formal.
- It would seem/appear that the situation is finally under control.
Subject + seem/appear + to infinitive
- The new secretary seems/appears to be very concerned about climate. (simple infinitive)
- They seem/appear to be having some difficulties. (continuous infinitive)
- Their leaders seem/appear to have suffered some setbacks. (perfect infinitive)
- The company seems/appears to have been doing very well over the last year (perfect continuous infinitive)
there seem(s) to be/to have been
- There seem to be two options for kids.
- There seems to have been a great response in social media.
apparently, allegedly, according to
There are expressions that we can also use for distancing.
- Apparently, the new primer minister isn’t going to visit Cuba until the end of May.
We use allegedly to give information when something wrong appears to been done, but there is no proof.
- He allegedly took a knife and stabbed the victim in the stomach.
- According to witnesses, she abandoned the place well after midnight.
might / may
We can also use might or may to speculate and say that something is possible, but that maybe it isn’t true.
- They might have fled the scene leaving the victim bleeding on the floor.
- They may be spending their Christmas holiday together.