Peculiarities of the Passive Voice in English

General outline of Active and Passive Voice in English. Semantic and lexical differences. The General Characteristic of the Passive Voice in English. The formation of the Passive Voice. The interaction of the passive voice with modals and perfect tenses.

03.05.2017

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English Philology Department

Peculiarities of the Passive Voice in English

Course paper

Done by:

the third-year student

Department of foreign language

Ternopil - 2010

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

CHAPTER I. THE PASSIVE VOICE AS THE GRAMMATICAL CATEGORY OF THE VERB

1.1 Verbal Categories of Voice

1.1.1 General outline of the Active and the Passive Voice in English

1.1.2 Semantic and lexical differences

1.2 The General Characteristic of the Passive Voice in English

1.2.1 The formation of the Passive Voice

1.2.2 Different kinds of passives

1.2.3 The interaction of the passive voice with modals and perfect tenses

1.2.4 The usage of the Passive Voice

1.2.5 Stative passives

CHAPTER II. THE PECULIARITIES OF THE USE OF THE PASSIVE VOICE IN THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE

CONCLUSIONS

LIST OF USED LITERATURE

INTRODUCTION

The theme of our course paper is the Passive Voice. It deals with the general characteristic of the Passive Voice and its usage. The practical part of the paper is based on the material of the scientific literature. It is very important for English learners to know the general characteristic of the Passive Voice since they must realize that the Passive Voice is often applied in the English language.

As the Passive Voice is of the great use more in the scientific literature than in the fiction, and more in written than colloquial language, it is very important to learn more about peculiarities of its usage. That's why the topic that had been chosen presents certain theoretical difficulties. Though the analysis of the Passive Voice in English as a grammatical category has found their reflections in many linguists' works, none of them contain exhaustive information about the peculiarities of its functioning in particular cases. Our course paper is directed to enrich the knowledge about the specific character and peculiarities of the usage of the Passive Voice in modern English. We, English learners, need to know more about the Passive Voice; in particular we need more information about when and why it is used.

The study of theoretical grammar resources relating to the study of the Passive Voice is the theoretical importance of the research. That's why the purpose of our course work is to clarify peculiarities of the usage of the Passive Voice. The tasks that have been put for achieving the aim are the following:

to study general characteristics of the Passive Voice;

to give a description of the formation of the Passive Voice;

to describe the usage of the Passive Voice.

The object of our course paper is functioning of the Passive Voice in the English language.

The subject of our work is the peculiarities of the usage of the Passive Voice and its functions in the sentence.

The material used for our course paper comprises a lot of examples of the usage of the Passive Voice taken from the scientific literature.

The structure of the course work contains the introduction, theoretical chapter I, practical chapter II, conclusions and the list of used literature.

The introduction of the work shows the actuality of the problem of the usage of the Passive Voice. The object and the subject of our course paper are clarified. The purpose and the main tasks for achieving the aim of the work are pointed out. The structure of the course paper is described.

The chapter I presents general information about the formation of the Passive Voice and its usage.

The chapter II gives the examples of the use of the Passive Voice selected from the scientific literature.

The conclusions sum up the information given in the course paper.

The list of used literature enumerates the sources used in the course paper.

CHAPTER I. THE PASSIVE VOICE AS THE GRAMMATICAL CATEGORY OF THE VERB

1.1 Verbal Categories of Voice

1.1.1 General Outline of the Active and the Passive Voice in English

The verbal category of Voice is an expression of relationship between an action and its subject and object. In other words, as a grammatical category, Voice shows the relation between the action and its subject, namely, it indicates whether the action is performed by the subject or passes on to it. As a result, Voice is connected with the sentence structure more than other verbal categories. There are two voices in English:

The Active Voice, that shows that the action is performed by its subject, i.e. that the subject is the doer of the action.

e.g. James sent me a letter.

The Passive Voice that shows that the subject is acted upon, that it is the recipient of the action.

e.g. A letter was sent to me by James.

The opposition is based on the direction of an action. According to the traditional approach to Voice, verbal forms, among other peculiarities, indicate relations between an action and its subject, i.e. Active Voice is used to denote actions directed from the person or thing expressed by subject, whereas Passive Voice forms show that an action is directed towards the subject [1; 123].

Some scientists distinguish more voices in the English language.

1.1.2 Semantic and lexical differences

An issue of importance concerns the semantic differences that exist between the active and the passive voice. First of all, passive and active sentences may sometimes differ in meaning - e. g. as Chomsky (1965) and Lakoff (1968) have pointed out, the active and passive sentences in the following two pairs are not completely synonymous.

According to Chomsky:

Everyone in the room speaks two languages. (i.e., any two languages per person)

Two languages are spoken by everyone in the room. (i.e., two specific languages that everybody speaks)

According to Lakoff:

Few people read many books. (i.e., There are few people in this world who read lots of books.)

Many books are read by few people. (i.e., There are many books that are read by very few people.)

Second, there are active voice sentences with surface structure objects that do not have a passive equivalent since the verbs are not truly transitive, e.g.:

Mike has a car. - *A car is had by Mike.

Roger weighs 200 pounds. - *200 pounds was weighed by Roger.

Likewise, there are passive sentences in English that have no Active Voice variant, e.g.:

Mehdi was born in Tehran. - *Someone bore Mehdi in Tehran.

It is rumored that he will get the job. - *Someone rumors that he will get the job.

With certain verbs and in certain situations either the Active or the Passive Voice must be used exclusively [5; 224-225].

1.2 The General Characteristic of the Passive Voice in English

The English passive is a problem for non-English speakers, mainly with regard to usage. Even though students can easily learn to form the passive, they have problems learning when to use it. There are several reasons for this. A few languages don't even have a passive voice. Most languages, however, have a passive that is more limited than the English one. Such languages will use word order, impersonal constructions, or other devices to express the equivalent of an English passive sentence. Only a few languages have a more generalized passive than English. For most English learners the passive will occur more frequently in English than in their native language and there will be a wider variety of passive sentence types in English than in their own language [5; 221].

1.2.1 The formation of the Passive Voice

The Passive Voice is formed by means of the auxiliary verb to be in the required form and Participle II of the notional verb.

The Present, Past and Future Indefinite Passive are formed by means of Present, Past and Future Indefinite of the auxiliary verb to be and Participle II of the notional verb.

am

is + Ved/V3

are

e.g. We are invited. (Present Indefinite Passive)

was

+ Ved/V3

were

e.g. You were invited. (Past Indefinite Passive)

shall

+ be Ved/V3

will

e.g. She will be invited. (Future Indefinite Passive)

The Present, Past and Future Perfect Passive are formed by means of the Present, Past and Future Perfect of the auxiliary verb to be and Participle II of the notional verb.

have

+ been Ved/V3

has

e.g. I have been invited. (Present Perfect Passive)

had been Ved/V3

e.g. They had been invited. (Past Perfect Passive)

shall

+ have been Ved/V3

will

e.g. He will have been invited. (Future Perfect Passive)

The Present Continuous and the Past Continuous Passive are formed by means of the Present Continuous and the Past Continuous of the auxiliary verb to be and Participle II of the notional verb.

am

is + being Ved/V3

are

e.g. We are being invited. (Present Continuous Passive)

was

+ being Ved/V3

were

e.g. You were being invited. (Past Continuous Passive) [3; 111-112].

The Future Continuous, the Present Perfect Continuous, the Past Perfect Continuous and the Future Perfect Continuous don't have the appropriate forms in the Passive Voice [4; 226].

The uses of tenses in the Active and in the Passive Voice are the same [3; 113].

1.2.2 Different kinds of passives

There are 4 formally distinct kinds of passive sentences in English:

Simple passives with to be:

e.g., Mary was hit by John.

Grapes are grown in that valley.

Simple passives with to get:

e.g., Barry got invited to the party.

John got hurt in the accident.

Complex passives with to be:

e.g., It is rumored that he will get the job.

John is thought to be intelligent.

That he will get the job has been decided.

Complex passives with to have:

e.g., Hal had his car stolen last weekend.

Alice had her purse snatched while shopping downtown [5; 226].

1.2.3 The interaction of the passive voice with modals and perfect tenses

Modal auxiliaries frequently co-occur with the passive voice in at least 3 distinct uses:

1) Possibility/ability - Can and could are used with the passive to express possibility or ability in the present and past, respectively.

e.g., The star can/could be seen from the balcony.

2) Logical (predictive/deductive) use - The logical modals can be used with the passive voice to express present deductions or future predictions; when these deductions or predictions refer to past time, to have must also be used.

e.g., Mr. John must/should/might/ have been/be elected mayor.

3) Making suggestions - In order to express a suggestion the conditional modals are used; also, to have is used to express hindsight, i.e., suggestions about things that were unfulfilled in the past.

e.g., More hospitals could/should be built. (= could be fulfilled in the future)

More hospitals could/should have been built. (= was not fulfilled in the past)

Studies are needed to determine which modals in which of their specific usages co-occur most often with the passive as opposed to the active voice. Also, it is important to note that the meaning of the modals in some so-called active-passive counterparts do not seem truly equivalent, e.g.:

People say that Dan is a fool. = It is said that Dan is a fool.

People may say that Dan is a fool. ? It may be said that Dan is a fool [5; 227-228].

1.2.4 The Usage of the Passive Voice

Pioneering studies by Huddleston (1971), Shintani (1979), and others provide us with some guidelines concerning when to use the passive. Raw frequency data, for example, indicate that the English passive is by far most frequent in scientific writing and that it is least frequent in conversation. Other discourse types can be placed along the frequency continuum [5; 228]:

The Passive Voice is always used in the following constructions:

o It is/was said that

o It is/was known that

o It is/was believed that

o It is/was expected that

o It is/was reported that

o It is/was understood that

o It is/was considered that

e.g. It is known that many Ukrainian people live in Great Britain.

It was expected that people would live better.

With the combination of words to be born the predicate is always used in the Past Simple Passive Voice [4; 238-239].

e.g. He was born in London. - When was he born?

The following guidelines, which are culled from many sources as well as from our own observations, may be of use in the absence of a complete and definitive usage study:

The passive is often used:

1. When the agent is redundant, i.e., easy to supply, and therefore not expressed.

e.g. Oranges are grown in California.

2. When the writer wants to emphasize the receiver or result of the action.

e.g. Six people were killed by the tornado.

3. When the writer wants to make a statement sound objective without revealing the source of information. (Although this sentence is more complicated than the other passives discussed here.)

e.g. It is assumed/believed that he will announce his candidacy soon.

4. When the writer wants to be tactful or evasive by not mentioning the agent or when he or she cannot or will not identify the agent.

e.g. Margaret was given some bad advice about selecting courses.

Based on the total figure, it appears that an error was made in the budget.

5. When the writer wishes to retain the same grammatical subject in successive clauses, even though the function of the noun phrase changes from agent to theme.

e.g. George Foreman beat Joe Frazier, but he was beaten by Muhammad Ali.

6. When the passive is more appropriate than the active (usually in complex sentences).

7. When the theme is given information and the agent is new information.

e.g. - What a lovely scarf! - Thank you. It was given to me by Pam [5; 228-229].

voice passive active

1.2.5 Stative passives

Most of the guidelines above describe usages of the Passive that express actions or processes:

grown

killed

to be given

made

beaten

A significant number of passive sentences in English are stative passives; i.e., they function more like predicate adjectives than like passive verbs. This distinction will become clearer if we consider the following pair of sentences:

e.g. The wells are located near the edge of the reserve.

The wells were located by two engineers.

Even though the verb to locate appears in both sentences, two different meanings are being expressed. The first sentence is a stative passive without an agent and without an active voice counterpart; it gives the reader or listener the location of the wells. Note also that the present tense is used. This is typical though not universal for stative passives. The second sentence, however, does have an agent (i.e., the engineers), and it tells us that the engineers discovered the location of the wells; also, an active voice counterpart is possible. Some linguists maintain that stative passives are really adjectives, not true passives. Whatever analysis is used, you should be aware of the fact that some sentences that look like normal passives are in fact stative passives that have no agent and no active voice counterpart [5; 229].

CHAPTER II. THE PECULIARITIES OF THE USE OF THE PASSIVE VOICE IN THE SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE

While analyzing the practical usage of the Passive Voice, it should be mentioned that the greatest examples taken from the scientific literature deals with the usage of the Passive Voice mostly in Present Indefinite and affirmative form and also with modal verbs.

We want to present the scientific article taken from the source of medical literature. It deals with the great usage of the Passive Voice that is printed in italics. The article is the following:

Chewing Gum & Gum Chewing

The United States is a major producer of chewing gum, and Americans are major consumers - chewing an average of 183 sticks of gum per person annually. However, the love affair with this chewing confection is not restricted to the geographic borders of the United States.1 After a slump in the mid-1980s, chewing-gum sales rebounded. Gum has now emerged as a multibillion-dollar commodity with worldwide popularity.

Currently, gum chewing is marked as part of a healthy lifestyle.2 Both manufacturers and researchers proclaim its benefits: gum chewing helps reduce plaque buildup when brushing is not an option; it temporarily hides bad breath; and it even improves concentration and relieves the boredom associated with long-distance driving. In addition, gum chewing is promoted as an alternative to such bad habits as overeating and smoking.3

Gum was long believed to contribute to tooth problems because of its high sugar content.4 Now it is enjoying a redemption of sorts. Recent studies show that gum chewing stimulates saliva flow, which helps rid the mouth of food particles that ultimately contribute to decay. In fact, the studies show that chewing a stick a gum for 15 minutes after eating can prevent dental cavities. Another study suggests that you need not chew sugarless gum to derive benefits. Researchers say that the sugar in gum is quickly rinsed out of the mouth by saliva, and therefore is not a factor in tooth decay.5

Chewing gum is made with three main ingredients: gum base, sugar, and corn syrup.6 (The gum base is especially strong and elastic in bubble gum.) The desired appearance and taste are achieved with the addition of natural and artificial colors and flavorings (most often fruit, cinnamon, or mint).7 In general, 90 percent of the sugar and 50 percent of the flavor is released during the first few minutes of chewing8 [10; 83].

The sentence 1 is the example of the Present Indefinite form of the Passive Voice; it is negative; it consists of the auxiliary verb to be in the Present Indefinite tense with the negative particle not and the Participle II.

The example 4 represents the Past Indefinite Passive that consists of the auxiliary verb to be in the Past Simple and the Participle II.

2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are the representatives of the Present Indefinite form of the Passive Voice; they are affirmative; they consist of the auxiliary verb to be in the Present Indefinite tense and the Participle II.

This article is the example of frequent usage of the Passive Voice in the scientific literature. It is necessary to say that in colloquial speech the Passive Voice is not so widely used.

Now we would like to suggest another article that contains a lot of sentences with the Passive Voice. It is used in different forms, constructions and with the modal verbs.

All about Chocolate

Chocolate, like most fruits and nuts, comes from trees. The seed of the chocolate tree, as it is sometimes called1, can be spun off in a number of guises.2 Those derivates can be further altered in flavor,3 consistency, and nutritional value through combination with such items as sugars and dairy products. Thus, standards have been devised so that consumers who prefer the creamy lightness of milk chocolate, for instance, to the zestier bite of bittersweet can satisfy their cravings.4 []

What makes milk chocolate different from dark chocolate? All chocolate is derived from the seeds (beans) of the cacao tree, Theobroma cacao, native to the American tropics.5 The heart of the beans, that are called nibs6, are contained in footlong pods and are additionally protected by individual outer shells.7 When finely ground, nibs become chocolate liquor, consisting of both cocoa solids and cocoa butter, which are separable. Proportions of these constituents used in chocolate products can be important to the consumer (one may be more or less costly than another). These proportions also affect flavor.

The FDA standards for cacao products were updated in 1993,8 and the final amended regulations were published in the May 21, 1993, Federal Register.9 Those rules are highly technical, down to prescribing analytic techniques and specifying approved processing methods. Specifications for cacao nabs themselves are offered (they may contain not more than 1.75 percent by weight of residual shell),10 as are the definitions of intermediate and end products, including chocolate liquor (contains not less than 50 percent nor more than 60 percent by weight of cacao fat, among other requirements). There are also standards for breakfast cocoa, sweet chocolate, semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, skim-milk chocolate, and so on [10; 84-85].

The sentences 1, 5, 6, 7 and 10 are the examples of the Present Indefinite form of the Passive Voice; they consist of the auxiliary verbs to be in the Present Indefinite tense and the Participle II.

The Passive Voice is used in the sentences 2, 3 in the Present Indefinite with the modal verb can to express possibility in the present and prediction and suggestion in the future accordingly. It is formed by means of the modal verb can in the Present Simple, the auxiliary verb to be and the Participle II.

The sentence 4 is the example of the Present Perfect form of the Passive Voice; it is formed by means of the auxiliary verb to be in the Present Perfect tense and the Participle II.

8 and 9 sentences are representatives of the Past Indefinite Passive that consists of the auxiliary verb to be in the Past Simple and the Participle II.

The next article is called Feet First by Ellen Trevor and a few examples from it are the following:

e.g. Two-thirds of foot problems can be attributed to ill-fitting shoes [10; 17]. -

The Passive Voice is used here in the Present Indefinite with the modal verb can to express possibility in the present. It is formed by means of the modal verb can in the Present Simple, the auxiliary verb to be and the Participle II.

e.g. Joints are formed wherever two bones knitted [10; 17]. -

The Present Indefinite Passive is formed by means of the Present Simple of the auxiliary verb to be and the Participle II.

e.g. Now bad news: even if you take care of your feet, they may still get irritated from time to time [10; 18]. -

The Present Indefinite Passive is formed by means of the modal verb may in the Present Indefinite, auxiliary verb to get and the Participle II. The Passive Voice is used here to express future prediction. Also this sentence is the example of such kind of the passive sentences as simple passives with to get.

e.g. These problems are common, but they can be helped [10; 19]. -

The Passive Voice is used here in the Present Indefinite with the modal verb can to express possibility in the present. It is formed by means of the modal verb can in the Present Simple, the auxiliary verb to be and the Participle II.

The Passive Voice is also found in the works of legal scholarship. The source that I have worked up is the scientific writing about the Constitution of the United States of America. Some examples of the Passive Voice taken from this source are the following:

e.g. Anything you say can be used against you in court [13; 564]. -

The Passive Voice is used here in the Present Indefinite with the modal verb can to express future prediction and suggestion.

e.g. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, a lawyer will be provided without charge [13; 564]. -

The Future Indefinite Passive is used in this sentence in the Future Indefinite form and it is formed by means of the auxiliary verb to be with the Participle II.

e.g. Freedom to believe is unlimited, but freedom to practice a belief can be limited [13; 537]. -

The first part of the sentence contains the Present Indefinite form of the Passive Voice expressed by means of the Present Indefinite of the auxiliary verb to be and the Participle II. Also there is the Passive Voice in the second part of the sentence that is formed by means of the modal verb can expressing possibility and ability in the present, the auxiliary verb to be and the Participle II.

e.g. The Supreme Court has consistently held that the establishment clause requires government to maintain a position of neutrality toward religions and to maintain that position in cases that involve choices between religion and nonreligion. However, the clause has never been held to bar all assistance that incidentally aids religious institutions [13; 538]. -

This sentence is the example of the Present Perfect form of the Passive Voice; it is negative; it is formed by means of the auxiliary verb to be in the Present Perfect tense and the Participle II.

We would like to analyze another article where the Passive Voice is widely used. It is the following:

Government support of religion

In 1879, the Supreme Court contended, using Thomas Jefferson's words, that the establishment clause erected a wall of separation between church and state. That wall was breached somewhat in 1947,1 when the justices upheld a local government program that provided free transformation to parochial school students. The breach seemed to widen in 1968, when the Court held constitutional a government program in which state-purchased textbooks were loaned to parochial school students.2 The objective of the program, reasoned the majority, was to further educational opportunity. The loan was made to the students, not to the schools,3 and the benefits were realized by the parents, not by the church4 [13; 538].

The sentences 1, 2, and 3 are the passive sentences of the Past Indefinite form, formed by means of the auxiliary verb to be in the Past Indefinite and the Participle II.

The sentence 4 represents the Past Indefinite Passive where the doer of the action, described in the sentence, is mentioned.

The examples taken from this source have different kinds and forms of the Passive Voice, they are very diverse.

It can be easily said that the usage of the Passive Voice in the medical and legal literature differs in the usage of the tense forms (in medical literature the Passive Voice is mostly used in the Present Indefinite, and in legal there are different tense forms).

While analyzing all these worked up sources we can gather that in the scientific literature the Passive Voice is used mostly in Present Indefinite and affirmative form and less frequent in the Continuous form. Also it is hardly to find all kinds of the passive sentences in such kind of literature.

CONCLUSIONS

In accordance with the analysis of the theoretical and practical material of the course paper we can make the following conclusions:

1. The Passive Voice is the category of the verb that shows that the subject is acted upon.

2. The formation of the Passive Voice is the following: to be (in the required tense form) + Participle II (of the notional verb).

3. The Passive Voice has the following tense forms:

The Present, Past and Future Indefinite;

The Present, Past and Future Perfect;

The Present and Past Continuous.

And it doesn't have the Future Continuous, the Present, Past and Future Perfect Continuous forms.

4. The Passive Voice can be used with modal verbs and there are 4 different kinds of passive sentences in English.

Also the Passive Voice is widely used in the scientific literature and less extended in the conversational speech.

The Passive Voice can express all the same that the Active Voice expresses and has the same functions in the sentence as the Active Voice has.

In combination with different modal verbs the Passive Voice can refer to the present, past and future action; all the more with modal verbs it may express the suggestion, ability, possibility, prediction and deduction in the sentence that is very important for English learners.

While working up sources of scientific literature we can sum up that in this kind of literature the Passive Voice is used mostly in Present Indefinite and affirmative form and less frequent in the Continuous form. Also it is hardly to find all kinds of the passive sentences in the scientific literature.

Thus, the material of the course paper gives better understanding of the theoretical material relating to the Passive Voice in English. And gathering up the practical analysis one can state that now it is easier for us to understand the formation and usage of the Passive Voice in the English language.

Also, we would like to repeat once more that we, English learners, need to know more about the Passive Voice; in particular we need more information about when and why it is used.

LIST OF USED LITERATURE

1. . . : . - ³: , 2007. - 328.

2. . . : . . . - . . . . - .: . , 1983. - 383 .

3. . . . : . 7- . - , 2007. - 319 .

4. . . : . . - .: -, 2003. - 606 .

5. Celce-Murcia, Marianne. The Grammar Book. - Boston, 1983. - 428p.

6. E. I. Morokhovska. Fundamentals of English Grammar. Theory and Practice. - Kyiv: Vyshcha Shkola, 1993. - 472 p.

7. Karaban V. I. and Chernovaty L. M. Practical Grammar of English. - Nova Knyha Publishers, 2005. - 288 p.

8. L. G. Alexander. Longman Advanced Grammar. Reference and Practice. - Longman Group UK Limited, 1993. - 304 p.

9. M. A. Ganshina, N. M. Vasilevskaya. English Grammar. - Higher School Publishing House, 1964. - 547 p.

10. Medicine and the Human Body. Health and Medicine Annual. - United States of America: Grolier Incorporated, 1995. - 1061p.

11. Murphy, Raymond. Essential Grammar in Use. - Cambridge University Press, 1990. - 259 p.

12. N. M. Rayevska. Modern English Grammar. - Kyiv: Vyshcha Shkola Publishers, 1979. - 298 p.

13. The Challenge of Democracy Government in America. Third Edition. - U.S.A. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992. - 759 p.

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