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agent

In this sentence (the opening line of Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl"), the pronoun I and the noun madness are agents.

Definition:

The person or thing that performs an action in a sentence.

In a sentence in the active voice, the agent is usually (but not always) the subject ("Omar selected the winners"). In a sentence in the passive voice, the agent--if identified at all--is usually the object of a preposition ("The winners were selected by Omar"). The relationship of the subject and verb is called agency. Adjective: agentive.

See also:

Etymology:

From the Latin, "to do"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Some weasel took the cork out of my lunch."
    (W. C. Fields)


  • "The postman wants an autograph. The cab driver wants a picture. The waitress wants a handshake. Everyone wants a piece of you."
    (John Lennon)


  • "Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy."
    (Margaret Thatcher)


  • "God creates men, but they choose each other."
    (Niccolo Machiavelli)


  • "Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom."
    (Albert Einstein)


  • "In many situations, . . . the purpose of the passive is simply to avoid mentioning the agent:
    It was reported today that the federal funds to be allocated for the power plant would not be forthcoming as early as had been anticipated. Some contracts on the preliminary work have been canceled and others renegotiated.
    Such 'officialese' or 'bureaucratese' takes on a nonhuman quality because the agent role has completely disappeared from the sentences. In the foregoing example, the reader does not know who is reporting, allocating, anticipating, canceling, or renegotiating."
    (Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, Understanding English Grammar. Allyn and Bacon, 1998)


  • "I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means."
    (Joan Didion)


  • "Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it's just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it."
    (David Sedaris)
Pronunciation: A-jent
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