Form. Phrase Structure: pass be . . . –en. Long Passive: the agent is expressed in the by-phrase. Short Passive: the agent is unexpressed . The Passive with Tense and Aspect. Simple present passive: The dog is bathed outside. With Modals:. The dog should be bathed outside.
Phrase Structure: pass be . . . –en
Long Passive: the agent is expressed in the by-phrase
Short Passive: the agent is unexpressed
Simple present passive: The dog is bathed outside.
The dog should be bathed outside.
With Present Progressive:
The dog is being bathed outside.
With Present Perfect:
The dog has been bathed outside.
With Simple Past:
The dog was bathed outside.
With Past Progressive:
The dog was being bathed outside.
With be going to for future:
The dog is going to be bathed
1. Be and get don’t function the same in questions:
Was Henry arrested?
Did Henry get arrested?
Henry wasn’t arrested.
Henry didn’t get arrested.
We must include operator addition when using GET
in questions and negatives.
His plans have been getting sidetracked for years. Vs. His plans have been being sidetracked for years.
Have . . . NP . . . –en. Note the different form due to the intervening noun phrase.
Mark had his appointment cancelled.
This sentence can have two meanings:
What’s the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs?
Take an object
Don’t take an object
Only transitive verbs may be in the passive voice.
Some passive sentences have no active voice counterpart:
President Obama was born in 1961.
? His mother bore President Obama in 1961.
Other verbs that occur commonly in the passive voice include but are not limited to:
be deemed, be fined, be hospitalized, be jailed, be scheduled, etc.
Death row inmate is deemed mentally ill.
Extra police scheduled for occupied Tucson.
Dad is jailed for putting son in oven.
The passive has a grammatical meaning: it focuses on putting the receiver of the action in the subject position and the subject is thus acted upon. As Shibitani (1985) states, the agent is “defocused”.
The passive requires a transitive verb; however, not every passive sentence with a transitive verb is acceptable.
Active and Passive
Everyone in the room speaks two languages. vs. Two languages are spoken by everyone in the room.
Few people read many books. Vs. Many books are read by few people.
Moles dig tunnels. Vs. Tunnels are dug by moles.
Get-passive, like Japanese passive, tends to be used adversely.
Get slapped, hit, whacked, trapped, snatched, punished, etc.
Get-passive tends to be used with verbs semantically related to:
Physical assault – get hit
Hindrance – get trapped
Transference – get snatched
Emotional or Mental strain – get punished
Get has lack of expressed agent and cannot replace be-passives with non-dynamic verbs.
This bed had not been slept in. vs. This bed had not got slept in.
Get is usually associated with verbs that emphasize actions or processes and are more likely to occur with adverbs of frequency.
The man continually got wiped out.
A. Her high C shattered the glass. (active voice)
B. The glass was shattered by her high C. (passive voice)
C. The glass shattered. (middle voice)
The function of the passive is to defocus the agent.
The passive is most frequently used when it is not known or
not important to know exactly who performs an action.
Rice is grown in India.
Our house was built in 1980.
This olive oil was imported from Crete.
Sometimes, we use the passive with the agent because we
want to focus attention on the subject of the sentence.
This rug was made by my aunt.
That rug was made by my mother.
The focus of attention is on two rugs.
The passive is used when the agent is not to be
Over 2,000 different varieties of potato are grown in Peru.
Julie’s car was stolen yesterday.
Apparently, we were given the wrong information.
A huge error was made on the report, so our group
received a poor letter grade.
The passive is used when the nonagent (recipient of the action) is:
- more closely related than the agent to the theme of the text
e.g. scientific writing
- a participant in the immediately preceding sentence
Lorenzo arrived in Paris as a down-at-heel political refugee without friends or money; luckily for him, France at that
time was ruled by an Italian . . .
** The passive is used more in some genres than others. Passives are more frequent with scientific or journalistic writing than it is with fictional and conversational English.
Include the agent when:
It is new information –
Sam’s house was robbed by the man who escaped
It is nonhuman –
The pool is cleaned throughout the day by the vacuum.
It is a well-known personage and should be included as propositional information –
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was written by
With a partner, discuss why the agent is or is
not included in the following sentences.
1. When to use the passive voice
2. Adjective vs. Passive
3. Middle Voice
In the Bantu languages, the passive voices are used if the agent is inanimate and the receiver is animate.
e.g.) The election bothered Nancy.
Nancy was bothered by the election. (o)
B. The subject is negatively affected by the action portrayed in the verb(Adversative passive voice).
Japanese students may puzzle over when to use the passive voice in English.
e.g.) John gaameni fur-are-ta.
John (topic marker) rain by fall.
John was fallen by rain.
e.g.) The beans were refried by someone (passive)
The suspect was alleged to have taken the money. /əlédƷd/
The alleged thief… /əlédƷid/
The middle voice can also be expressed by intransitive verbs that take the focus of the process as subjects. However, they do not occur in the passive voice since intransitive verbs have no transitive counterparts.
The bank closes at 5. p.m.
We were sitting quietly after dinner, when suddenly the door opened.
Left hanging on the fence, the red balloon suddenly burst.
4) When it is natural to expect to occur (based on physical, social, or psychological laws).
The ice on the pond melted earlier than usual.
5)When there are so many possible causes for a change of state that it would be misleading to imply a single agent.
Prices increased due to a variety factors.
B. Which verbs are ergative?
Many of the old buildings in the center of town have recently demolished. (X)
C. Intransitive verbs cannot occur in the passive voice.
The accident was happened last night.
D. Wrong instruction: Some Chinese students have been taught that sentences with grammatical subjects that are not the agent require the passive in English. Students will need to learn about the middle voice.
Intermediate ESL Students
Confrontation between Joanna and Dean
Intermediate ESL Students
The City of Placentia –
Then and Now
[Adapted from (Pearse, 1981)]
Discuss and elicit various jobs that are done at a hotel.
“Are/Is the … every day?”“Yes, the … is/are … everyday.”Suggested Activities
2) Practice Phase for Intermediate Students
Give students a list of well-known products and have them discuss where they are made/produced/created/sold/etc. This is great introductory activity because the agent is less important or unnecessary in these sentences. This can also be used to teach the past passive. (e.g. "Where are Nike shoes made?" "Where is vodka produced?" “Where was Facebook invented?”) [Adapted from http://www.inlingua.com.ve/ ]vodka, Guinness, tequila, sake, BMW cars, Honda cars, your t-shirt, baklava, french fries, shish kababs, Microsoft, Facebook, etc.
3) Practice Phase for Intermediate Students
Who discovered/wrote/invented/directed/etc. these things? (You may want to create a third column with verb choices to help match the items.)
Put students into groups and have them discuss each of the items below and match them with the inventor/director/writer/etc.
(e.g. “Penicillin was discovered by Alexander Flemming.”)
[Adapted from http://www.inlingua.com.ve/ ]
4) Production Phase for High-Intermediate/Advanced Students
Show students a few pages of the newspaper. Show them that not only is the passive voice used in the headlines, but throughout the stories as well because the event itself is commonly more important than the actors. Then, have students break into pairs or small groups and invent a crime or a story that might appear in a newspaper. When they come up with the main details, they can write the article or do a newscast of what happened.
5) Production Phase for High Intermediate Students
Discuss your childhood: (Although these questions are written in the passive voice [implying that maybe your parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles/etc. could have done these things], students can answer in various forms. e.g. “My dad let me stay up late, but my mom sent me to bed early.”) [Adapted from http://www.inlingua.com.ve/ ]
6) Practice Phase for Intermediate Students
Have students compare what jobs are usually done in their countries by men and women. Students fill out the worksheet individually. Then they must find someone in the room from a different country, compare answers, and report back to the class. (e.g. "Small children are usually taught by women.”“Houses are usually built by men.")
[Adapted from http://www.inlingua.com.ve/ ]