Category passive state of the verb in English

The category of activity and passivity. Basic Grammatical categories. Peculiarities of using sentences with the verb in the passive voice. Ways of expressing the passive voice. The passive constructions. The implicit agent in English passives.

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Дніпропетровський національний університет залізничного транспорту

ім. акад. В. Лазаряна

Факультет гуманітарної освіти та роботи з іноземними студентами

Кафедра філології та переклад


Категорія пасивного стану дієслова в англійській мові

Виконавець: Керівник:

студент групи 1051 доц. Білан Н. І.

Симонова А.І.



Table of contents


Chapter I. Grammatical categories. The category of activity and passivity.

1.1 Grammatical categories

1.2 The category of activity and passivity.

1.3 Peculiarities of using sentences with the verb in the passive voice. Ways of expressing the passive voice.

2. Chapter II. The passive constructions.

2.1 Stative passive

2.2 The implicit agent in English passives

2.3 Agentless passives.




The topicality of our investigation is predetermined by the need to study the category of passivity in the light of the modern linguistic theories as: “The case grammar “ by Ch. Filmor and cognitive linguistics that focus on the ways the deep semantic syntactic structures are represented by means of formal syntactic units of the English language. [27, p. 74 ]

The object of our investigation is the mechanism of expressing the category of passivity in English language.

The grammatical category of activity-passivity has been studied by such outstanding linguists as Ch. Fillmore , Yu.S. Stepanov, N.D. Arutyunova, Bondarko A.V. , Plugyan V.Y. ,, S.B. Chafe, C.R. Quirk, Bylygina T.V. , Close R.A. and many others as it is a language universal. [27, p. 74 ; 1, p.268; 9, p. 352; 28, p. 118-136 ; 3, p. 320 ; 24, 252; 29, p. 27-84; 24, p. 432]

The term voice, as a linguistic category, indicates the relationship between the subject of a sentence and its verb. In English, there are two voices--active and passive.

Passive voice is a grammatical voice common to many of the world's languages. Passive is used in a clause whose subject expresses the theme or patient of the main verb. That is, the subject undergoes an action or has its state changed.

Quirk C.R. presents the passive voice as almost a variant of the active voice: “Changing from the active to the passive involves rearrangement of two clause elements, and an addition an agent by-phrase.” From the author's point of view, the passive voice is best understood on an overall level as a structural transformation of a string in the active voice. [ 18, p.159] Marianne Celce-Murcia and Diane Larsen-Freeman, however, present the passive as more of an independent entity, a specific set of structures having a particular set of meanings and functions. Throughout their treatment of the passive the authors of The Grammar Book place emphasis on the passive's independence by paying particular attention to its functions and meanings and how these differ from those of the active voice. [8 , p. 15]

The concept of voice is defined in many grammar books and dictionaries. The following is definition a typical one:

“Voice is a grammatical category which makes it possible to view the action of sentence in two ways without change in the fact reported” [3, 801]

According to Asher R.E., “linguists use the term voice in a number of senses” and “the broadest definition of voice encompassing a wide range of grammatical constructions that are commonly thought to be quite distinct from those related by the active- passive alternation”. In this view, the term voices in general and the passive voice in particular do exist in all languages. [28, 118-136]

Linguists have given an extensive attention to the phenomenon of passivization. According to Quirk C.R. , Cheyf U. L. it is a universal linguistic phenomenon since it is found in all languages. It is obligatory in some languages such as Japanese, optional in others like English. [3, p. 320 ; 24, 252]

The passive voice is a grammatical construction (specifically, a "voice"). The noun or noun phrase that would be the object of an active sentence (such as Our troops defeated the enemy) appears as the subject of a sentence with passive voice (e.g. The enemy was defeated by our troops).

The subject of a sentence or clause featuring the passive voice denotes the recipient of the action (the patient) rather than the performer (the agent). The passive voice in English is formed periphrastically: the usual form uses the auxiliary verb to be (or to get) together with the past participle of the main verb.

For example, Caesar was stabbed by Brutus uses the passive voice. The subject denotes the person (Caesar) affected by the action of the verb. The agent is expressed here with the phrase by Brutus, but this can be omitted. The equivalent sentence in the active voice is Brutus stabbed Caesar, in which the subject denotes the doer, or agent, Brutus. A sentence featuring the passive voice is sometimes called a passive sentence, and a verb phrase in passive voice is sometimes called a passive verb.

English allows a number of passive constructions which are not possible in many of the other languages with similar passive formation. These include promotion of an indirect object to subject (as in Tom was given a bag) and promotion of the complement of a preposition (as in Sue was operated on, leaving a stranded preposition).

Use of the English passive varies with speech style and field. Some publications' style sheets discourage use of the passive voice, while others encourage it. Although some purveyors of usage advice, including George Orwell and William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White , discourage use of the passive in English, its usefulness is generally recognized, particularly in cases where the patient is more important than the agent, but also in some cases where it is desired to emphasize the agent. [18, p.313; 11, p.220]

Chapter I. Grammatical categories. The category of activity and passivity

1.1 Grammatical categories

R.A. Close, A.V. Bondarko, T.V. Bylygina, Quirk R.S. state that the grammatical category is a union of the grammatical form and grammatical meaning reflected in a morphological paradigm. Grammatical categories can have one or more exponents. For instance, the feature [number] has the exponents [singular] and [plural]. The members of one category are mutually exclusive; a noun cannot be marked for singular and plural at the same time, nor can a verb be marked for present and past at the same time. Exponents of grammatical categories are often expressed in the same position or 'slot' (prefix, suffix, etc.). Some examples of this are the Latin cases, which are all suffixal: rosa, rosae, rosae, rosam, rosa. ("rose" in nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, ablative). [28, p. 118-136 ; 3, p. 320 ; 24, 252; 29, p. 27-84; 24, p. 432]

For example, in English, the grammatical number of a noun such as "bird" in: The bird is singing. The bird-s are singing, is either singular or plural, which is expressed overtly by the absence or presence of the suffix -s. Furthermore, the grammatical number is reflected in verb agreement, where the singular number triggers "Is", and the plural number "are".

Grammatical categories of the English language: Aspect, Case, Degrees of Comparison, Mood, Number, Person, Tense, Voice.

Study of the notional categories is related to the necessity within comparative typological operations to rely on certain logical backgrounds.

The term « notional categories» emerged due for typological heterogeneity of external means of expression for separate notions lying in their basis. The given term is closely connected with the names of Otto Jespersen and Ivan L Meshchani-nov. According to O. Jespersen the notional categories are outer language general categories, «not dependent on more or less casual facts of existing languages. These categories are universal as they apply to all languages, though they are seldom expressed in these languages m a clear and unambiguous way... The task of a grammarian is to understand in every particular case the ratio existing between the notional and syntactic categories»

Ch. Fillmore states that case Grammar is a system of linguistic analysis, focused on the link between the valence of a verb and the grammatical context it requires, created by the American linguist Charles J. Fillmore in (1968), in the context of Transformational Grammar. This theory analyzes the surface syntactic structure of sentences by studying the combination of deep cases (i.e. semantic roles) -- Agent, Object, Benefactor, Location or Instrument -- which are required by a specific verb. For instance, the verb "give" in English requires an Agent (A) and Object (O), and a Beneficiary (B); e.g. "Jones (A) gave money (O) to the school (B). [26, p. 243]

According to Ch. Fillmore, each verb selects a certain number of deep cases which form its case frame. Thus, a case frame describes important aspects of semantic valency, of verbs, adjectives and nouns. Case frames are subject to certain constraints, such as that a deep case can occur only once per sentence. Some of the cases are obligatory and others are optional. Obligatory cases may not be deleted, at the risk of producing ungrammatical sentences. For example, Mary gave the apples is ungrammatical in this sense. [ Ch. Fillmore ,26]

A fundamental hypothesis of case grammar is that grammatical functions, such as subject or object, are determined by the deep, semantic valence of the verb, which finds its syntactic correlate in such grammatical categories as Subject and Object, and in grammatical cases such as Nominative, Accusative, etc. Ch.Fillmore (1968) puts forwards the following hierarchy for a universal subject selection rule: Agent < Instrumental < Objective [26, p. 496]

That means that if the case frame of a verb contains an agent, this one is realized as the subject of an active sentence; otherwise, the deep case following the agent in the hierarchy (i.e. Instrumental) is promoted to subject.

The influence of case grammar on contemporary linguistics has been significant, to the extent that numerous linguistic theories incorporate deep roles in one or other form, such as the so-called Thematic Structure in Government and Binding theory. It has also inspired the development of frame-based representations in all research.

During the 1970s and the 1980s, Charles Fillmore developed his original theory onto what was called Frame Semantics. Walter A. Cook, SJ, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, was one of the foremost case grammar theoreticians following Fillmore's originial work. Cook devoted most of his scholarly research from the early 1970s until 1990s to further developing case grammar as a tool for linguistic analysis, language teaching methodology, and other applications, and was the author of several major texts and many articles in case grammar. Cook directed several doctoral dissertations applying case grammar to various areas of theoretical and applied linguistics research. [26, p.243; 29 p.27-84]

1.2 The category of activity and passivity

Such linguist as Ch. Fillmore , Yu.S. Stepanov, N.D. Arutyunova, Bondarko A.V. , Plugyan V.Y. and others state that english verbs have two “voices”--active and passive. Active forms are used when the subject of the sentence is the agent of the action performed in the sentence. A writer employs the passive voice when the subject is the recipient (the patient or direct object) of the action performed by the verb. The Passive Voice in the English language is a distinctive system, which has a number of different constructions. Derect, Indirect, and Prepositional. In most sentences the agent/patient relations aren't as clear. In the following example, “Professor Murray” is the agent and “the lecture” is the patient, or direct object, of “deliver.”


Professor Murray delivered the lecture.


The lecture was delivered by Professor Murray.

Not every passive verb can or should be made active. Sometimes you simply don't know who or what performed an action, or you deliberately want to obscure who performed an action. Passive verbs are useful when who did an action is less important than to whom it was done. A passive verb puts the victim (in grammatical terms, the patient) right up front in the sentence where it gets attention.

S.B. Chafe, C.R. Quirk, Bylygina T.V. , Close R.A. state that english is found with different types of verbs in various verb phrases. Monotransitive verbs are numerous and almost of them form a direct passive construction. Phrasal transitive verbs are often used in the passive voice. Though in many examples there was an evident correspondence of the Active and the Passive Voice construction, but there were found cases in which there was not a one-to one correspondence. There are semantic reasons for this constraint, as these verbs denote not an action or process, but a state or relation. The direct passive represents such passive сonstruction in which the subject corresponds to a direct object of a verb. The direct passive includes a lot of various сonstructions. [28, p. 118-136 ; 3, p. 320 ; 24, 252; 29, p. 27-84; 24, p. 432 ]

Basically the direct passive is formed from the verbs demanding one direct object. This passive сonstruction plays the leading part among all other сonstructions. As a whole it is possible to consider this passive сonstruction lexically unlimited. A number of structural restrictions are imposed on a direct passive: it not be formed when an object of a verb is expressed by mutual pronoun,a subordinate clause, infinitive or gerund. The direct passive in forms of Present Indefinite and Past Indefinite can denoted both action, and the condition which has come as a result of the done action. Meaning of an action or a condition in these tense forms depends upon lexical character of a verb from limiting or nonlimiting nature of a verb from which the participle II is formed. The combination of the verb to be with a participle II from nonlimiting verbs always matters actions. The combination be with a participle II from telic verbs can denote both action, and the condition which has come as a result of achievement of a limit of action, the limiting character incorporated in a verb. Thus, we find two subspecies in a direct passive: a passive of action and a passive of condition. These two subspecies differ from each other in the environments.

In passive of action there are necessary components of a construction, such as special structural signals which are the factors of action. The passive of action is met in English more widely than a passive of a condition.

From the verbs demanding one direct object, the special form of a passive representing a combination of an auxiliary verb to get with a participle II can be formed. This structure always denotes action. Another specific construction in whose basis there is direct passive, sentences with formal ` it ' are as a subject .

We can state, that the use of Passive constructions in the periods under analysis is limited in many ways: not all types of Passive constructions were widely used and the use of analytical forms, namely Perfect, is very scarce in the Passive Voice.

Bondarko, Biber J., Quirk think the Voice is the property of a verb, which shows whether the subject of the action performs the action or receives the action described by the verb. If the subject performs the action described by the verb, the verb is treated as belonging to the Active Voice. Accordingly, if the subject receives the action, the verb is said to be in the PassiveVoice. [28, p. 118-136 ; 3, p. 320 ; 24, 252; 29 ]

The voice of a verb depends on the relation between the verb and its subject. When the subject of a verb acts, the verb is in the active voice; when the subject is acted upon, the verb is in the passive voice .

The active voice stresses the activity of the subject and helps to make a sentence direct, concise, and vigorous. One and the same idea can often be expressed in two ways, by means of an active, and by means of a passive construction. The English passive is formed with an auxiliary, generally to be, but often also to get and to become, and the second participle .

1.3 Peculiarities of using sentences with the verb in passive voice. Ways of expressing the passive voice

Bondarko, Quirk, Biber and Bylygina consider it to be bad practice to use the passive voice because it obscures the subject. However, it is still common to use the passive voice in formal and business communications. It is particularly useful when creating deliberate vagueness or avoiding assigning blame. For example, He was hurt, instead of Someone hurt him. Also, sometimes the passive voice is preferable because a writer wishes to place or maintain emphasis on the object of the action, not for purposes of deception, but simply as a matter of style. In such cases, the subject may also be obvious, or explicitly supplied with a by X construction. [28, p. 118-136 ; 3, p. 320 ; 24, 252; 29]

The passive voice is generally used when the subject of the sentence is indefinite, general, or unimportant. In the sentence, They mine coal in Pennysylvania, the subject is so indefinite that it is not clear what is meant by they. It might mean the miners, the people, or the companies. This sentence, and similar sentences are improved by putting the verb in the passive voice.

They mine coal in Pennysylvania.

Coal is mined in Pennysylvania.

The passive voice is also a good choice when the doer of the action is unimportant.


The roads were cleared early this morning.

The mess was cleaned up before we arrived.

The subject of the corresponding active sentence can be represented in the passive sentence by means of a prepositional phrase beginning with by.

My car was stolen by someone.

A new president has been elected by the voters.

Both French and English are spoken in Canada by the populace.

This by-phrase is only required when the speaker or writer needs to mention the AGENT, ie who or what caused something to happen to someone or something else.

Actually, the mere fact that most passives occur without a by-phrase is an indicator that the length of the phrase that expresses the agent is not always a major concern in choosing the passive over the active. Many linguists, among them R.Thompson and J.Biber ,have argued that the short passive and the long passive are essentially different constructions and need to be looked at quite separately. [7, 21], R.Thompson considers passives without by-phrases “obligatory under certain conditions, these conditions having less to do with the structure of the discourse than with the encoder's intentions and assessments of the decoder's inferential capabilities”. [21, p.501] The short passive is used because the agent is not to be mentioned explicitly, either because its identity is unknown, unimportant, or evedent from the context. An example from R.Thompson, originally from T.Givon is given below:

I left under circumstances of considerable honor. I was given a farewell luncheon by half the staff of the law firm, meaning the lawyers themselves. I was asked to make a speech and Iwas applauded. [11, p87]

In this example, it can safely be inferred that the people who host the luncheon are the people who ask the narrator to give speech. Choosing the passive allows for a chain of three sentences with the same topic.

The sentences above can virtually always be recast in the active voice with the agent moved to the subject position and with no essential change of meaning.

Someone stole my car.

The group has made a decision.

Farmers grow much tobacco in Eastern Europe.

The voters have elected a new president.

A populace speaks both French and English in Canada.

The -ed participles may sometimes be followed by prepositions other than by as in the following examples:

-ed as adjective:

I am very surprised at you.

-ed as part of a passive construction:

I was surprised by a knock at the door.

Many - ed participles which cannot be proceded by very and can be modified by other intensifiers such as (very) much, well, badly, completely, greatly, highly:

Her performance was (very) much/greatly admired.

The pedestrian was badly/seriously injured.

He is a well/highly qualified engineer.

The story was completely forgotten.

The passive voice is useful when you want the doer of the action to remain anonymous.


Last night the announcement was made that 300 employees would be laid off.

According to Ch Fillmore sometimes the agent of an action needs to be omitted. For example, the textual conventions, governing lab reports do not permit the use of the first person (I or we) at all, and in fact any mention of the researchers, even in the third person, is frowned upon. Thus, lab reports are filled with clauses like these: the pigeons were observed over a period of three weeks; the subjects were divided into three groups. [26, p. 496]

The reason for this convention is that science is supposed to be objective, and removing all reference to the researchers emphasizes that stance of objectivity.

The use of the passive voice in laboratory reports also keeps the spotlight focused on the experiment itself, rather than yanking it over to the researchers. It is a matter of emphasis.

There are two ways of casting a verb in the passive voice in English so as to cause the subject to be acted upon by its verb. The foremost way is by using a form of the verb to be with the past participle of a verb, such as in the following examples:

I was stopped. (=someone stopped me.)

I was bathed. (=someone bathed me.)

This is the more common way of the two. It appears in all levels of English and its only restriction is that the verb must be transitive. The second, and less common way, is by using a form of the verb to get with the past participle of a verb:

I got stopped. (=someone stopped me.)

Sometimes, it may be difficult to tell the difference between an -ed form referring to a state and one referring to an event. For example, John and Mary were married last year may mean either (a) that they were not single last year, or (b) that their wedding took place last year. In the example,we can use GET, in spoken English at least, to form the passive: only meaning (b) is expressed by

John and Mary got married last year.

Cheyf state that however, not every -ed participle is used after GET, which emphasises the RESULT of an action that is done to someone or something. Verbs that are so used include:

get killed, get stuck, get hurt, get burned, get shot, get arrested, get paid, get cheapened, get hit, get ushered out, get blown off, get run over, get beat up, get fixed up, get squeezed, get caught, get sucked into. [ 24, p.222]

Passives in English are formed periphrastically: the lexical verb occurs in its non-finite past participle II form, and the auxilary be encodes voice, tense and agreement. There are some exceptions: if the lexical verb is part of a participle small clause, i.e. a clause without a tense projection, no auxilary is needed and the result is a passive without an auxilary. The second exception from the generalization that all passives involve a form of be is, of course, the get-passive. Unlike the passive without auxilaries, which is dependent on a specific syntactic configuration, the get-passive seems to be more of a stylistic variant of the be-passive.

Corpus studies by J.Biber and S.Oksefjell have shown that the get-passive is generally rare, even in spoken English. Among the claims that have been made about how the get-passive is more restricted than the be-passive are the following:

- Register: The get-passive is far more common in spoken than in written English [7, 17], bur even in conversational English, the get-passive is much rarer than the be-passive J.Biber [7, p.476].

- Regional variation: The get-passive is used more often in American than in British English and is also acquired earlier in American English than in British English K.Meints [ 16 p.26 ].

- Social variation: The get-passive started “in the speech of less educated people and is more common in the speech of working-class speakers (Herold 1986).

-Semantic and aspectual restrictions: J.Biber stresses The get-passive is only common with a very limited set of verbs. the get-passive receives a more dynamic interpretation than the be-passive and cannot occur with stative verbs.[ 16 , p.98].

One of the reasons for looking at the get-passive as a get-construction lies in the fact that syntactically, get in the get-passive behaves just like the lexical verb get, not like an auxilary. It does not show any of the features (Negation, Inversion, Code, Emphasis) typically associated with an auxilary verb. Just like the lexical verb verb get, it requires do support in contexts of negotiation and question formation. Furthermore, it cannot be stressed and cannot be stranded in VP- deletion contexts. If get behaves like a lexical verb, it should be relatable to get in other contexts.

a. He got/was promoted recently.

b. He did not get/got not/was not promoted recently.

c. Did he get promoted recently?Got he promoted recently?

d. John got killed in an accident and Bill got/did too.

According to T.Givon and Z.Yang the first step in the development towards the get-passive was an increase in semantic and syntactic complexity through the addition of a beneficiary (get something for somebody). The next step was that the additional phrase did not have to be a beneficiary, it could also have locative meaning (get something/someone somewhere). [11, p. 22],

It is often claimed that in the get-passive the surface subject is generally animate, allowing for an involvement reading of the subject (the subject is not just undergoing the event, but also actively pushing the event forward).T.Givon and Z.Yang illustrate this point with the following contrastive pair:

a.Mary was shot on purpose, the bastards!

b.Mary got shot on purpose, the bastards!

They argue that is infelicitous because in the get-passive the subject is construed as somehow responsible for the event (a reading that is not generally available for the be-passive). The agent of the passivized verb is implicit, i.e. Mary is not the one who fired the shoots, but the animate subject of the matrix clause is perceived as somehow responsible for the whole event having taken place (secondary agent reading). [22, p.120]

The fact that the get-passive is associated with a secondary agent reading more easily than is the be-passive can be connected to the existance of causative get. The subject of be is never a causer, the subject of get can be.

As stated previously, the more common voice construction in English is the active voice; however, there are three times when the passive voice is the structure of choice according to Marianne Celce-Murcia and Diane Larsen-Freeman.

1. The passive voice allows speakers and writers to keep discourse topics in the subject position over successive clauses while adding new information in the remainder of the clause.

I had just finished paying off my new car when it was towed by the police. Then, on the way to the towing compound, it was rammed by a truck and demolished.

The first electronic computer was built in England during World War II. It was called the Colossus, and it was used to decipher Adolf Hitler's confidential messages to his generals. After the war, it was destroyed so that the world would not learn how the British broke codes. Presently, it is being reconstructed at Bletchley Park in England where it can be viewed by visitors. [19, p.38].

2. The passive voice allows speakers and writers not to mention the agent, especially when information about the agent is unknown, unimportant, obvious, confidential, or difficult to identify.

My car was stolen.

A decision has been made.

Much tobacco is grown in Eastern Europe.

A new president has been elected.

Both French and English are spoken in Canada.

3. The Passive voice allows speakers and writers to place emphasis on receivers of an action by placing them at the beginning of a sentence.

Thirteen people were injured by a tornado in Florida.

I was robbed. . [8, p.15].

Although most passive voice sentences in English do not include agents, there are three narrow instances when speakers and writers tend to express them :

1. The agent is expressed when it is a proper name indicating an artist, an inventor, a discoverer, or an innovator.

The Mona Lisa was painted by Leonardo Davinci.

The first electronic computer was built by Tomas Flowers.

The American continent was discovered by Christopher Columbus.

Rubber was first vulcanized by Charles Goodyear.

2. The agent is expressed when it is an indefinite noun conveying new information that the speaker/writer thinks is important enough to mention.

These works of art were all produced by women.

The corner store was robbed by a masked gunman.

3. The agent is expressed when it is an unexpected inanimate noun.

Thirteen people were injured by a tornado in Florida.

All the lights in this building are controlled by computers.

So all scholars agree that passive-voice constructions exhibit the following properties:

- they contain a form of the verb to be (or to get) plus a past participle of a transitive verb. They express an action carried out on the subject of the sentence.

- they contain an agent, either expressed or more frequently unexpressed.

- they can almost always be rewritten in the active voice with the agent moved to the subject position with no essential change of meaning.

category passivity english activity

2. Chapter II

2.1 Stative passive

category passivity english activity

Ch. Fillmore, A.V. Bondarko, T.V. Bylygina, Quirk R.S. state that the passives described so far have all been eventive (or dynamic) passives. There exist also stative (or static, or resultative) passives; rather than describing an action, they describe the result of an action. English does not usually distinguish between the two. For example:

The rule was broken.

This sentence has two different meanings, roughly the following:

[Someone] broke (violated) the rule.

The rule was in the broken (dysfunctional) state. [28, p. 118-136 ; 3, p. 320 ; 24, 252; 29.].

The former meaning represents the canonical, eventive passive; the latter, the stative passive. (The terms eventive and stative/resultative refer to the tendencies of these forms to describe events and resultant states, respectively. The terms can be misleading, however, as the canonical passive of a stative verb is not a stative passive, even though it describes a state.)

Some verbs do not form stative passives. In some cases, this is because distinct adjectives exist for this purpose, such as with the verb open:

The door was opened. > [Someone] opened the door.

The door was open. > The door was in the open state.

A salient type of stative passive construction is the combination of the verb to be with adjectives that describe an emotional state. There are about three dozen of them in common use. They are derived from verbs and are identical in form to past participles, most of them ending in -ed; but instead of indicating an action, they refer to the experiencing of an emotion.

I was bored (=I felt bored), I was depressed (=I felt depressed), I was exausted (=I felt exausted), I was interested (=I felt interested), I was tired (=I felt tired), I was relieved (=I felt relieved), I was satisfied (=I felt satisfied), I was shocked (=I felt shocked).

Analogous to an agent by-phrase, these adjectives most often take a range of prepositions to connect them to the cause of the emotion.

I was exhausted from so much work.

I was interested in computers.

I was bored with my classes.

I was tired of hearing so many excuses.

I was relieved at the outcome of the election.

I was shocked at your behavior.

Passives with a stranded preposition, as in It was dealt with by the boss. This is the passive counterpart of The boss dealt with it , where it is not object of the verb but complement of the preposition with - so that in the passive with is a PP that has lost its complement. Generally the preposition concerned does not have any readily indentifiable independent meaning, but is simply required by the verb whose complement it heads ( contrast The boss travelled with her, which cannot be passivised) - deal with, rely on, depend on, account for, approve of and so on. But examples are found where the preposition does not have its normal locative sense: The bed had been slept in, Her hat had been sat on; for the passive to be acceptable in such cases, the process must be one that affects in some significant way the referent of the subject. Thus Her hat had been sat on is more likely than The stone bench had been sat on, for sitting on a hat is likely to put it out of shape, whereas sitting on a stone bench will not normally have any effect on it - through one could not of course say that the latter violates any grammatical rule, and indeed if one adds a plainly acceptability is improved: the plainly indicates that there was some visible effect produced by sitting on the bench. For the most part the PP whose complement becomes subject under passivisation is complement in an intransitive active clause (note the impossibility of The design was congratulated Ed on, and the like), but in a few cases it may be complement within an object NP: He had been taken advantage of by the boss: these involve expressions like take advantage of, take account of, etc. which from lexical (though not syntactic ) point of view are single units.

N. I. Bilan carried out the semantic syntactic analysis of the ways of translating into English such frequently used Russian and Ukrainian inverted syntactiс structures with the predicates of emotional impact and possession as:

- Ukrainian: Їй багато роботи; Їй треба зробити багато; Їй не треба нічого робити?; Що мені робити з ким-небудь / чим-небудь? Що я повинен з ним / з собою / з цим робити?, Мені є / було / буде завдання / вказівка / попередження; Йому подобаються устриці; Йому сниться дивний сон.

- Russian:У нее много работы; У нее нет работы; Ей нужно сделать много; Ей ничего не нужно делать; Что мне делать с кем-либо / чем-либо? Что я должен с ним / с собой / с этим делать?; Мне есть / было / будет задание / указание / предостережение; Ему нравятся устрицы, Ему снится странный сон;

- English: There is a lot of / much work for her to do; There is no work for her to do. There is a lot of / much work that she must / has to / has got to do; There is no work that she must / has to / has got to do; What must I / do I have to / have I got to do with smth / smb?; What must I / do I have to / have I got to do with him / myself / this?. I have been / was / will be given a task / an assignment; I have been / was / will be assigned / ordered to do smth / warned. Him like oysters;

He dreams a strange dream. [30, p. 103 - 107 ; 24, p.432].

N. I. Bilan substantiated that the subordanite semantic role of animate participants of these semantic syntactic structures should be classified as “Patient”. [30, p. 103 - 107 ].

Passive voice constructions are also used with modal auxiliary verbs, such as: can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, would, ought to

The main function of modal verbs is to allow the speaker or writer to express their opinion of, or their attitude to, a proposition. These attitudes can cover a wide range of possibilities including obligation, asking for and giving permission, disapproval, advising, logical deduction, ability, possibility, necessity, absence of necessity and so on. The problem with each modal verb is that it can have more that one meaning and the interpretation of a particular modal will depend heavily on the context in which it is being used.

2.2 The implicit agent in English passives

Ever since 1968 when Charles Fillmore, the originator of the modern school of Case grammar, [10] put forward his case grammar theory, the semantic notion of Agent has been, among other notions, always central to the theory of linguistics and the theory of Case grammar. However, nobody has yet proposed a principled procedure for identifying the nature of this case notion.

The term Agent has been employed in a variety of ways. The diversity in the application of this case role reflects the fact that there seems to be no agreement among linguists as to what the term is to be predicated of. The most serious problem of all in case grammar is the indeterminacy and divergence of opinion over which nominal arguments are to be considered as Agents in particular propositions.

In “Case for Case”, Charles Fillmore [ 10] proposes a grammatical theory which focuses on an association of semantic and syntactic relations among sentence components. He terms these relations “case grammar”, although he makes it clear that they have nothing to do with the traditional notion of grammatical case, i.e., inflection forms indicating the nominative, accusative, and so forth. Rather, case concerns deep structure relations between the noun phrases and the verb of each preposition. Most prominent of these relations are: Agentive, Patient, Beneficiary. [27, p. 10]

According to S.Langendoen [ 14 ] for someone or something to be an Agent, it must be capable of acting on its own volition, and since inanimate physical objects or abstracts ideas normally cannot do so, it is generally odd to use a nominal expression which refers to an inanimate object or abstract as an Agent.

The perception of Agent must therefore depend in part on the nature of the noun (phrase). We must therefore characterise human nouns as potential Agents. Potential Agents are more likely to engage in activities than non-potential Agents, specifically inanimate objects.

Close R.A. in his reference grammar book points out only one key characteristic needed for an argument to be assigned the status of the Agent- the causative role in the situation presented by the utterance regardless of the causative participant being animate or inanimate[9, p.226].

N.I. Bilan consideres this characteristic of being the causative element of semantic syntactic structure of the utterance to be pivotal while making a decision on assigning the role of the Agent. N.I. Bilan proves that the widely shared opinion that the Agent must be capable of acting on its own volition is refuted by such frequently used utterances as He accidentally broke the vase. At the same time N.I. Bilan draws attention to such statements as:

This car drives easily - Эта машина управляется легко.

The heat melted the butter - Тепло растопило масло.

The wind opened the door - Ветер открыл дверь.

The ship destroyed the peer - Корабль разрушил пирс.

The work is ongoing - Работа сама собой делается.

Money comes to him with no effort on his part - Деньги сами идут к нему в руки, where inanimate objects are syntactically foregrounded by being given the position of the subject of the active syntactic structures. These structures - simple and hence frequently used. The author emphasises that such syntactic structures highlight the fact that the inanimate Agents occupying the syntactic position of the subject act independently of the animate participants , who are deliberately not verbalized. These frequently used constructions testify to the semantic syntactic meaning of activity based on the semantic characteristic of potentiality of the above - mentioned nouns and to the activity and potentiality of the objects named by them. [30, p. 103 - 107 ; 24, p.432]

There is a general consensus that the passive is an agent- demoting construction (in terms of syntactic and semantic prominence) or Agent- backgrounding construction (in terms of information structure). Unlike ergatives or adjectival passives, verbal passives are compatible with agent oriented adverbs like (un)willingly, deliberately, and voluntarily, even if there is no explicit agent in the sentence:

a. The government decreased the price unwillingly.

b. The price was decreased unwillingly.

c. The price decreased unwillingly.

Data like this show that the function of the passive cannot be to maximally background the external argument, but to background it to a certain extent- to an element with specific syntactic and semantic characteristics, the “implicit argument”. The implicit argument in the passive is not just a conceptual construct, it is an integral part of the construction and consequently of native speakers' grammar of English.

If we follow the generative analysis of the passive, the representation of an external argument as an implicit argument is an integral part of the passive construction in English. It is contingent on lexical properties of the passive morpheme, a so-called thematic affix, or of a lexical rule of passivization. The widely accepted analysis of the passive is that the passive morpheme may behave like an ordinary argument in that it can be (or needs to be) assigned a theta-role( is the formal device for representing syntactic argument structure required syntactically by a particular verb) and abstract Case in order to be interpretable. But since it is a bound morpheme, it will not actually behave like a full argument, it will only be an implicit argument with restricted syntactic potential. According to this analysis, the distinction between short passives (passives without a by-phrase) and long passives (passives with by-phrase), which is very important in functional approaches to the passive R.Thompson, Biber J. is not fundamental - the external argument will be represented anyway, no matter if there is a by-phrase or not. [ 21, 7],

2.3 Agentless passives

Ch. Fillmore states that the Agentless passive is very frequent both in transitive and intransitive clauses. Its main function is to eliminate or demote the agent, while the communicative status of the direct object (in transitive clauses) remains basically the same as in the original direct construction. [Ch. Fillmor, 26]

The meaning of the Impersonal Passive is actioanal; it may also render the habitual meaning or a whole array of modal meanings.The Impersonal Passive opposes two moods, the Indicative and the Necessitative. In the Indicative the content verb is presented by Present passive participles (the imperfective Agentless passive ) or Past passive participles (the perfective Agentless passive). The two aspectual forms indicate respectively whether the event is in progress at the time of reference or has finished by the time of reference.

The Perfective Agentless Passive indicates that the event took place and was finished prior to the time of reference, be it present, past, or future. The construction describes the event itself and not the resulting state, as does the resultative construction.

The Agent is a freely omissible element of a clause structure: there are no cases where the rules of syntax require an Agent to be present. In this respect it is quite different from the subject of the active. Thus ommiting the subject from the sentence leads to the ungrammatical Shot the tiger, whereas ommiting the agent from the sentence leaves us with perfectly well-formed passive The tiger was shot. This kind of construction is called the agentless passive: it is much more frequent than the one with an Agent- textual studies show that some 75%-80% passive constructions are agentless.

Although the agentless passive is not the only means of impersonalisation in all languages, the impersonalisation strategies do not always constitute viable alternatives to the passive. The implied indefinite Agent of the agentless passive is ambiguous as to the inclusion of the speaker/writer and also addressee. Hence it is an ideal construction if the speaker /writer does not wish to directly implicate himself or his interlocutor, but simultaneously does not want to exclude either one or the other from the range of possible Agents.

Now an agentless passive like The tiger was shot cannot be satisfactory derived from any actual active clause. It might be proposed that the corresponding active is Someone shot the tiger; such a pairing cannot be accepted, however, because the active encodes information that is not encoded in the passive. With this particular pair the difference is not communicatevely significant, because a hearer would pragmatically infer from The tiger was shot that someone shot it. Consider, however a case like Max was killed instantly. This is not equivalent to Someone killed Max instantly, for unlike the latter it does not entail that Max was killed by a person. Nor can we relate it to Something killed Max instantly, for something normally contrasts with someone, instead of subsuming it. Or consider a case like The project was completed in four years: this is not equivalent to Someone completed the project in four years, which implies that a single person did it.


In this work we have examined the use of the passive in English. The goal was to study the relevance of the use of the passivity activity, to analyze the reasons for choosing the passive, to reveal the grammatical nature of the passive constructions and to register different types of such constructions, to find out which constructions compete with the passive and explore the role of passive in English.

English allows a number of passive constructions which are not possible in many of the other languages with similar passive forms.

The English passive has been studied from many different linguistic angles. It is a construction that may be dificult in terms of sentence comprehension, but these dificulties are balanced out by a better fit between informational status, discourse needs, and syntactic structure.

In my work we have looked separately at each component of the passive construction in English and at their contribution as a whole.

The syntactic and semantic asymmetry among the arguments of the passivized verbs is also an important factor in determining which verbs can be passivized and which cannot. Syntectically, a verb needs to have an external argument in order to form a passive. In addition, passivization works best if the event is not just transitive in the structural sense of the term, but if it is also semantically transitive.

So all scholars agree that passive-voice constructions exhibit the following properties:

- they contain a form of the verb to be (or to get) plus a Past Participle of a transitive verb. They express an action carried out on the subject of the sentence;

- they contain an agent, either expressed or more frequently unexpressed;

- they can almost always be rewritten in the active voice with the agent moved to the subject position with no essential change of meaning.

The analysis in chapter II showed that all the components typically associated with the passive (the theme subject, the auxilary be, and the by-phrase) depend on the syntactic and semantic characteristics of the verb and on the way the passive participle is embedded in its syntactic environment; they are not inherent in the construction.

Ch. Fillmore , Yu.S. Stepanov, N.D. Arutyunova, Bondarko A.V. , Plugyan V.Y. ,, S.B. Chafe, C.R. Quirk, Bylygina T.V. , Close R.A. state that the English passive has been framed as a specific version of a construction that exists in many languages and that is shaped by principles of Universal Grammar. However, it is not possible to separate the general aspects of the construction from those that are particulary “English”. For example, if English had not developed into a prepositional stranding language, it would not allow prepositional passives. [27, p. 74 ; 1, p.268; 9, p. 352; 28, p. 118-136 ; 3, p. 320 ; 24, 252; 29, p. 27-84; 24, p. 432]

The passive voice is a grammatical category that is expressed by some surface syntactic structures (specifically, a "voice"). The noun or noun phrase that would be the object of an active sentence (such as Our troops defeated the enemy) appears as the subject of a sentence with passive voice

Use of the English passive varies with speech styles. Some publications' style papers discourage use of the passive voice, while others encourage it. Although some purveyors of usage advice, including George Orwell and William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White , discourage use of the passive in English, its usefulness is generally recognized, particularly in cases where the patient is more important than the agent, but also in some cases where it is desired to emphasize the agent.


1.Бондарко А.В., Булігина Т.В. Теория функциональной грамматики. Залоговость. - Санкт-Петербург: Изд-во «Наука». - 1991. -268с.

2.Виноградов В.В. Избранные труды: Исследования по русской грамматике. М., 1975 - с. 267 - 268.

3.Каушанская В.Л. Грамматика английского языка. - М., - 2006. - 320с.

4.Качалова К.Н., Израилевич Е. Е. Практическая грамматика английского языка. М., 2003-с.368.

5. Коваль А.П. Композиційна роль образу автора у публіцистиці// Коваль А.П. - 1983.С.36-39.

6.Anja Wanner, Topics in English linguistics. New York, 2003 - 148p.

7.Biber J. Introduction to Functional Grammar 1994. - 268pp.

8.Celce-Murcia M. Grammar book, Cambridge; Cambridge University Press.-2008- 700pp.

9.Close R.A. A Reference Grammar for Students of English. - Moscow: Prosvescheniye. -1979.- 352pp.

10.Fillmore Ch. The Acquisition of Complex Sentences, New York.-2004.-186pp.

11.Givon T. Typological Studies in Language, Harlow: London.-1990-220pp.

12.Haegeman L. Trends in Linguistics, Berlin.-1999.-275pp.

13.Johansson S. Studies in Corpus Linguistics, Florence.-1996.-163pp.

14.Landendoen S. Approaches to Linguistics, Philadelphia.- 2008.- 215pp

15. Larsen - Freeman D. Grammar book, Cambridge; Cambridge University Press.- 1950.- 38-79.

16.Meints K. Studies in English Language, New York: Croom Helm-259pp.

17.Oksefjell S. Corpora and Cross-Linguistic Research, Netherlands:Atlanta.- 1997.- 320pp.

18.Quirk R. Reference Grammar for Students of English. - Moscow: Vyssaja skola. - 1982.- 313p.

19.Reynolds R. Introduction to Functional Grammar -1994. 265pp.

20.Roberts J. Typological Studies in English, NewYork; Pinter.- 168pp.

21.Thompson R. Referene Grammar . Oxford Uni. Press, 2006.- p.48.

22.Yang Z. Functional Grammar, Harlow: Longman.- 190p.

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