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Impersonal Report Structures
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Impersonal Report Structures

LEVEL 4, 5 |

Impersonal Report Structures are used to show what people generally think or to report what people claim or believe is true.

 

Voiced by Kirsten Colquhoun

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Impersonal Report Structures

These passive structures are used to show what people generally think or to report what people claim or believe is true.

Like the Passive Voice, it can be used for a number of reasons:

1. To create an objective impression by distancing the author from the idea.
It is known that the prisoner escaped through the tunnel.
(The author of this sentence wanted to create a great distance between him and the written sentence.)

2. We are more interested in the statement than who made it.
The economy is expected to improve next year.
(We are interested in the economy.)

3. To make the sentence more formal and less personal.
It is claimed that the government is doing a bad job.
(It is a formal style.)

In informal speech, we can avoid using the passive by using a subject like you, they, we, someone, people, etc. This sounds more personal and friendly. In more formal texts, the impersonal report structures are preferred because they are less personal. This is especially true in scientific, technical or academic writing.

We use these structures with such verbs as: say, think, believe, claim, report, know, expect, agree, understand, and others.

So let's listen to how we can change an informal simple statement into the formal one. There are two ways of forming this type of structure: 


it + passive + that

or 

Subject + passive + infinitive.

It might look a bit confusing but it is not. The first structure It + passive + that is easy to use. We can take any sentence, put in front of it something like It is said or It is thought and ta-da you have got a formal style.

Compare the following pairs of sentences:

People say Irish people drink a lot.
It is said that Irish people drink a lot.

Children believe that Santa's helpers are preparing some presents for them.
It is believed that Santa's helpers are preparing some presents for children.

We claim that the Vikings explored the New World long ago.
It is claimed that the Vikings explored the New World long ago.

Somebody agrees Leonardo DiCaprio has been filming a lot lately.
It is agreed that Leonardo DiCaprio has been filming a lot lately.

The second structure Subject + passive + infinitive (infinitive can be used in various tenses) is a little more complicated. At the beginning we write the person on whom we give some information, then we use such passive structures as is said, is believed, is thought, etc., and then we have to use infinitive according to how the events occurred.

Compare:

People say Irish people drink a lot.
(Present Simple)
Irish people are said to drink a lot.
('To drink' is Simple Infinitive. We use it to report on things happening at the same time frame as the reporting structure.)

Children believe that Santa's helpers are preparing some presents for them.
(Present Continuous)
Santa's helpers are believed to be preparing some presents for children.
('To be preparing' is Continuous Infinitive. We use it to report on something that is happening at the moment.)

We claim that the Vikings explored the New World long ago.
(Past Simple)
The Vikings are claimed to have explored the New World long ago.
('To have explored' is Perfect Infinitive. We use it to make clear that an event happened before the time it was reported.)

In case you decide to write a report or a scientific article, I am sure Impersonal Report Structures will be very helpful for you. Thanks for listening.