Which are the most common passive tenses used in technical and scientific writing

■ Present passive. We normally use the present passive tense when describing a process or procedure or when making general statements of fact.

Paper is made from wood. The trees are cut down.

■ Past passive. When we report a particular procedure and are concerned with only one particular occasion in the past; then we use the past passive tense.

The capillary was filled with mercury and all air excluded. Air was admitted to the chamber and heated.

■ Present perfect passive. This tense is often used in the introduction where you might want to refer to things relating to your work that have happened, or been said, recently.

For example, it has been suggested that cathepsin S promotes motility of cilia. On the other hand, the possibilities of computational modelling have increased in the last few years, enabling the models to be much more realistic.

■ Passive with modals. These are commonly found in technical and scientific writing in such phrases as

It should be made clear that... It cannot be assumed that...

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