The New Jersey State of the State Address will be delivered. (Mel Evans/Associated Press)
The New Jersey State of the State Address will be delivered. (Mel Evans/Associated Press)

Mistakes were made.

It must be stated, first and foremost, that mistakes were made.

Mistakes were made. Errors were committed. Attention should have been paid.

The passive voice is deeply, deeply sorry.

This will not be allowed to happen again.

No pains will be spared. People will be disciplined in a way that seems appropriate. Responsibility will be taken. It must be taken. A subject will be found for the verbs in those sentences.

You will not be let down again.

If you ever want to become instantly familiar with awkward, passive constructions, just watch anyone apologize for anything. Especially if this person has national political ambitions. Especially if this person is Chris Christie on Tuesday in the New Jersey State of the State address.

Everything turns out to have happened on its own — or, if not literally on its own, certainly at the behest of concepts like Weeks and Ordeals and Breaches of Trust, which suddenly take on an agency all their own, like Toy Story toys. “This week has brought its share of challenges.” “This ordeal has brought a lot of soul-searching.” How thoughtful of the ordeal and the week to bring those things with them!

“The last week has certainly tested this administration,” Christie told the people of New Jersey on Tuesday. “Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we are entrusted to serve. I know our citizens deserve better. Much better.”

Christie added: “Without a doubt we will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure this breach of trust does not happen again.”

This breach of trust will not happen again. You’re just sitting there, and then a Breach of Trust decides it’s going to happen. It’s like puberty: impossible to predict and very messy.

“But I also want to assure the people of New Jersey today that what has occurred does not define us or our state.”

Errors have been acknowledged by the passive voice.

Frowned on and reviled by English teachers the world over, it now surfaces only in speeches by politicians seeking to deflect blame from themselves.

CNN switched away after a few minutes, once it became clear that the speech was just going to be Things That Chris Christie Thought Were Going Well In New Jersey. Maybe the whole bridge thing was just an elaborate ruse to lure us in to hear what bipartisan things he is planning to do about education and jobs.

As far as the scandal goes, he continues to seek out those responsible.

The active voice gets all the credit. I did the leg work. I surmounted the difficulties. I made an active search for those responsible. I am responsible. I will take responsibility.

The passive voice gets all the blame. Mistakes were made. Misconceptions were generated. Confusion was created. Lies were spread.

But at least there’s a clear culprit. It was all done by the passive voice.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.