Passive resistance

Students of te reo who are used to the dominance of active sentences in English don’t like having to use passive sentences (I speak from experience as former student and present teacher). It’s a little bit “active sentences are easier” laziness, a tad “I don’t really get when or how to use them” uncertainty, and a lot of “they say pretty much the same thing as actives anyway so why bother changing” ignorance.

There’s lots of good reasons to use the passive voice in Māori but one important one is the word ‘it’. In English we use it as a place holder for something previously mentioned. It’s so common that we don’t even notice it when we use it, but we definitely notice when __isn’t there.

In Māori, we don’t have a single word for it – we have a passive suffix instead.

Kua kite koe i te īmera?

Āe, kua kitea e au.
Yeah, I’ve seen it.

Āe, kua kitea.
Yep, seen it.

However, you hear lots of new te reo speakers replying like this instead.

Āe, kua kite au.
Yes, I have seen __.

No passive equals no it and __ sounds really ugly, doesn’t __? We can also use passives for pronouns such as him, her, or they.

I mihia e koutou?
Did you guys thank him?

Kāore e roa, ka rangona e rātou.
It won’t be long until they hear about it.

Kua tāhaengia?
Have they been stolen?

E mahia ana inaia tonu nei.
It‘s being done right this second.


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