passive

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I have done an exercise in which I had to choose between the passive and active. Both sentences were active but I don't understand why they cannot be passive also? I hope someone can explain. Many thanks
1) Life expectancy is rising/ is being risen in mnay countries.
2) In the Middle East, the number of yound people is growing / is being grown.

Bold is correct answer (according to answer key) Italic is wrong answer.

passive asked Mar 20 at 14:52 danielleb New member

3 answers


1

There is no bold or italic in your question. I am taking the liberty to format the question based on my understanding. Please feel free to correct if anything is incorrect in the assumption.

1) Life expectancy is rising/ is being risen in many countries.
2) In the Middle East, the number of young people is growing / is being grown.
Bold is correct answer (according to answer key) Italic is wrong answer.

 

In the above statements, rising/ growing are both intransitive verbs. Intransitive verbs cannot be changed into passive voice.

link edited Mar 20 at 17:38 Deva R Kumar Contributor

Many thanks for this! Much appreciated!

daniellebMar 20 at 20:02

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1

What Deva R Kumar said.

 

Just a note on the passive with intransitive verbs: when intrasitive verbs are followed by a prepositional phrase (which is not the case for you), it is often (but not always) possible to construct the so-called prepositional passive.

 

Some examples of allowed and disallowed prepositional passives (from CGEL, p. 276):

 

Allowed:

This bed has been slept in.

Her book was referred to. 

These matters must be seen to.

 

Disallowed:

*Boston was flown to next.

*Such principles were stood for.

*Some old letters were come across.

 

Again, in your cases there are no prepositional phrases complementing the intransitive verbs, and so there is no possibility of forming a passive of any kind.

link answered Mar 20 at 19:42 linguisticturn Expert

Thank you so much for your help! I really appreciate it! Could you perhaps please also see if my idea of reasoning is correct with the other sentences of the exercise?? I know the answers are correct but I don't know whether my reasons behind the answers are. I really appreciate the time you have taken to help me.

3) The idea of working longer has not received/ has not been received well by people = Passive because starts with the 'object' and it says 'by' at the end.4) Some people say that advances in medicine have gone/ have been gone too far = Active because 'doer' mentioned at start of sentence.5) It is unfair that young people oblige / are obliged to pay for the care of the old =Passive because ‘oblige’ is usually passive and because ‘there is no specific doer other than someone or people.'6) In some western countries, people encouraging are being encouraged to have more children. = Passive Because it ‘states general truth or fact’.Many, many thanks!!

daniellebMar 20 at 20:01

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I'm going to answer the questions you posted in the comment to my reply.

 

3) The 'by (someone/something)' is indeed usually a dead giveaway that we probably have the passive voice. But to really eliminate the active voice as a possibility, we need to explain why the active voice alternative,

 

[3S] *The idea of working longer has not received well by people.,

 

is not acceptable (which is indicated by the asterisk in front) . It is not acceptable because in the active, receive, being a transitive verb, expects a direct object. We know that the direct object of receive must be something like a noun phrase (e.g.  Kim has not received the package) or a relative clause (e.g. Kim has not received what you sent her.) But well by the people is nothing like that; grammatically, it isn't even a 'single thing' (i.e. it is not a constituent). Thus it cannot be a direct object; thus [3S] is not grammatically acceptable.

 

Note that you cannot a priori say that the idea of working longer is the object of anything; only once you conclude that the passive voice is the correct answer in 3), only then can you say that the idea of working longer is the object in the corresponding active-voice sentence The people have not received well the idea of working longer.

 

4) Again, you can't say who the 'doer' is until you've already made up your mind about whether the active or passive voice is correct. Let's see why the passive voice version,

 

[4S] *Some people say that advances in medicine have been gone too far.,

 

is unacceptable. It is unacceptable because in this case, the passive would be an idiom, to be gone, meaning to be away, or to be absent. The idiom accepts only certain types of complements, such as Jack has been gone [since Tuesday]/[for a month already]/[(for) too long]. But too far doesn't make sense; it just doesn't work with this particular idiom.

 

On the other hand, Jack has gone too far is an acceptable usage of another idiom, to go too far, which means 'to exceed the limits of what is reasonable or acceptable'.

 

So this case, 4), is more about the knowledge of idioms than about passive vs active.

 

5) Again we need to look at why the alternative is unacceptable. So consider

 

[5S] *It is unfair that young people oblige to pay for the care of the old.

 

Here oblige appears as an intransitive verb. But when used as an intransitive verb, oblige can have only one meaning: 'do as (someone) asks or desires in order to help or please them' (example: Tell me what you want to know and I'll see if I can oblige.) Note that in this meaning, oblige takes no complement. But in [5S], it would appear with the complement to pay for the care of the old, which, as we just said, doesn't make sense if oblige is used in its intransitive sense. And so [5S] is not acceptable.

 

In contrast, in

 

[5S1] It is unfair that young people are obliged to pay for the care of the old.,

 

we can check the same dictionary entry as in the link above to find this: '[with object and infinitive] Make (someone) legally or morally bound to an action or course of action. Example: Doctors are obliged by law to keep patients alive while there is a chance of recovery.’ The example has an active-voice counterpart: The law obliges the doctors to keep patients alive while there is a chance of recovery. [5S1] fits to all of this prerfectly. It lacks the by (someone/something) part, but that part is always optional in passive.

 

6) Whether or not something states a general truth or fact is not a reliable criterion for distinguishing passive from active. Most sheep are white is a general truth, but it is not in the passive; Jack was being asked to donate to charity is not a general truth, but it is in the passive. Instead, we again need to look at why the alternative is unacceptable:

 

[6S] *In some western countries, people encouraging to have more children.

 

This is not acceptable for multiple reasons: first, encourage is a transitive verb, but in [6S] there is nothing that could serve as its object. But even if that were to be fixed, e.g. changed into encouraging others to have more children, what we have now is a non-finite clause, which cannot serve as the predicate of the sentence. To make the sentence assceptable, we should either add a form of the auxiliary be in front (people [are]/[were]/[have been] encouraging others to have more children), or else change the form of encourage (people encourage/encouraged  others to have more children). Any way you look at it, [6S] is not acceptable.

 

In contrast, people are being encouraged to have more children is the correct passive form of [(Someone) is]/[They are] encouraging people to have more children.

link edited Mar 22 at 16:36 linguisticturn Expert

Thank you ever so much for the time and effort you have put into my questions. Your explanations are clear and very very helpful. Many many thanks.

daniellebMar 22 at 15:17

No problem!

linguisticturnMar 22 at 16:21

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