THE PASSIVE VOICE English grammar 4ºESO Montse Flores Adeva & Ana Hernández Bartolomé IES Hoces del Duratón The Passive Voice: Outline 1. Shifts in grammatical levels - Verb phrase level Clause level 2. Constraints - Verb constraints Agent constraints Frequency constraints 1. Grammatical levels The transformation from the passive to the active voice involves two grammatical levels: 1. The verb phrase level 2. The clause level Grammatical levels (2) 1. THE VERB PHRASE LEVEL Active voice verb tense & agreement meaning Passive‘BE’ + past participle Grammatical levels (3) THE VERB PHRASE LEVEL (2) Examples: active passive Present: simple, continuous, perfect, perfect continuous Past: simple, continuous, perfect, perfect continuous Future: simple, continuous, perfect, perfect continuous Conditional: simple, continuous, perfect, perfect continuous Infinitive: present, perfect Participle: present, perfect Auxiliary verb Grammatical levels (4) 2. THE CLAUSE LEVEL The passivization involves the rearrangement of 2 elements: 1. The active object becomes the passive subject. Intel makes Pentium chips. Pentium chips are made by Intel. Grammatical levels (5) THE CLAUSE LEVEL (2) 2. The active subject becomes the passive agent. If mentioned, the preposition ‘BY’ appears before the agent. Engineers design PC languages. PC languages are designed by engineers. Some problems are solved by technicians. Some tools were stolen last night. (by thieves). Grammatical levels (6) THE CLAUSE LEVEL (3) 3. In sentences with D.O. and I. O. there are two passive forms, but the passive with the I.O. subject is the most common one (if animated). The company sent us all the information. All the information was sent to us by the company. We were sent all the information. They sent us a CV. The boss gave me a raise. I gave the dog a bone. They gave their daughter to the church. 2. Constraints 1. VERB CONSTRAINTS Intransitive verbs cannot be turned into passive voice. The child is sleeping soundly. The girl plays happily. Copulative verbs (resemble, look like...) cannot be turned into passive. Tom resembles his grandad. Constraints (2) 2. AGENT CONSTRAINTS The agent in the passive is often optional (contrary to subject in active) Omitted when irrelevant, not known, redundant or impossible to be expressed in active. I was sent to the shop to buy buns but all the buns were sold. John and Jim had a fight and John was beaten. Order has been restored without violence and without bloodshed. Constraints (3) 3. FREQUENCY CONSTRAINTS The passive voice is generally used: To express the idea which requires a reflexive or impersonal construction in another language. English is spoken here. Shoes mended while you wait. When the active would involve the use of an indefinite, a redundant or a vague pronoun. I’ve been robbed. The victor was cheered. Constraints (4) 3. FREQUENCY CONSTRAINTS (2) To avoid a difficult or awkward change of subject in the middle of a long sentence. The PM arrived back from Australia last night and he was asked about the opinion of the latest detentions of suspected terrorists. When we wish to make a statement sound impersonal for reasons of modesty or umpleasant news. A lot of care has been taken with the present text. Constraints (5) 3. FREQUENCY CONSTRAINTS (3) To express an order more forcefully and more impersonally The job must be done by six. When we are more interested in what happened to the subject than in what the agent did. The soldier was wounded by a bullet.