Case 1 - two silly examples of the passive
- Stefanie loves dogs. - active
- The dogs are loved by Stefanie. - passive
1a. Do you think these sentences sound natural?
- Stephanie loves the dogs every day.
- Stephanie loved the dogs three times yesterday.
- Stephanie is loving the dogs right now.
1b. What kind of verb is love?
1c. Do we often use state verbs in the passive?
- She has a lovely garden - NOT A lovely garden is had by her
- The dress suits her well - NOT She is suited well by the dress
- Samantha owns a house in the country
- NOT A house in the country is owned by Samantha
but we can sayThis beautiful country house is owned by a famous actress.
- Peter likes ice-cream - NOT Ice-cream is liked by Peter
but we can sayThis ice-cream is especially liked by young women.
- I hate this new law - NOT This new law is hated by me.
but we can sayThe new law is particularly hated by drivers.
- She loves her horses - NOT Her horses are loved by her.
but we can sayHer horses are much loved by the children who come to ride here.
- Stephanie has taken the dogs for a walk.
The dogs have been taken for a walk by Stephanie.
- Where are the dogs? - Stephanie's taken them for a walk.
Where are the dogs? - They've been taken for a walk by Stephanie.
- Where are the dogs? - They've been taken for a walk by Jennifer from next door.
- Do you like my new necklace? My mother gave it to me. / It was given to me by my mother.
BUT Mummy gave it to me. - NOT It was given to me by Mummy.
- Would you like some cake? A friend of mine made it / It was made by a friend of mine.
BUT Sally made it. - More natural than It was made by Sally.
- Oliver Twist was originally written by Charles Dickens and has been made into a film by, amongst others, David Lean and Roman Polanski. There was also a musical version, where both the music and lyrics were written by Lionel Bart.
But then things get even sillier.
- The dogs are being loved by Stefanie.
What is wrong with that sentence?
But what about I'm lovin it?
What verb could we use instead of love in the following sentences?
- I'm really loving my new job at the moment.
- She's loving having the extra responsibility while the boss is away.
- Just look at little Johnny, he's really loving all the attention he's getting.
So do we never say loved by someone?
- Talking about groups of unspecified people
He is loved by one half of the fans and hated by the other half.
Cheltenham festival is loved by the Irish.
- Talking about a reciprocal situation, where the same noun (in this case Jack) acts as the subject of an active construction and of the passive construction that follows it.
Jack loves Jill, and is loved by Jill in return
- Talking about books, film, stories etc
This the story of Peter, who is loved by Samantha, his next door neighbour.
- In a clause relating back to somebody just mentioned and who is the focus of that clause
It's important for children to know that that they are loved by their parents.
- In religious texts
Know that you are loved by God.
And what about the dogs are loved by?
- Two are for the website I've been talking about.
- A few sound OK to me, where the dogs have already been talked about before and are the obvious focus of the sentence, and where the agents are not named or are not emotionally close to the speaker:
- I understand that the dogs are loved by their owners, but these dogs should not be in a neighborhood filled with hundreds of children. (article in Dallas Morning News)
- The dogs are loved by every single staff member (comment on Google +)
- The dogs are loved by many people (from the same comment)
- It also seems OK when talking about dogs in general
- Dogs are loved by world leaders, celebrities and everyday people
- But others sound unnatural to me, even where the dogs are the focus, especially where the agents are emotionally close to the speaker:
- The dogs are loved by my kids and played with by their friends
Case 2 - one (deliberately?) silly example and two rather strange ones
Example 1 - silly cat!
- Active: The cat sat on the mat
Passive: The mat was sat on by the cat
- one is about people 'being sat on by scaly monsters'
- another appears to be from a rather intriguing anecdote - 'The other bloke was being sat on by three other passengers, including the little old lady in the straw hat, while Preston hopped around moaning and clutching his wrist, but he did not tell Polly this.'
- and the third is about young rabbits that 'get sat on by their elders'
- Oh no! Our lovely new mat has been totally destroyed by the cat.
- How did the doll's face get squashed? - It was sat on by the cat.
- The chair was sat on by my aunt.
- The hat was put on by the man.
- The car was got into by the driver.
- My toe was just stood on by that man.
Example 2 - getting biblical
- Active: One of you will betray me
Passive: I will be betrayed by one of you
- I want you to do this right away
NOT I want this to be done by you right away
- When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
- And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.
(Matthew 26:21 )
- And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.
(Mark 4:18 )
Example 3 - a web investigation
- Active: Gove is criticising the passive voice
Passive: The passive voice is getting criticised by Gove
- Active: Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, has criticised the passive voice in a memo to his department.
Passive: The passive voice has been criticised by Michael Grove, the Education Secretary, in a memo to his department.
- Active: Gove has criticised the passive voice several times recently
Passive: The passive voice has been criticised by Gove several times recently
A little diversion - Gove, Strunk, Orwell and the passive
Back to 'getting criticised'
- He got stopped for speeding.
- We get paid tomorrow.
- You'll get ripped off if you buy it from them.
- You might get stung if you go into the nettles.
- And he stood up for me when I was getting criticized by everybody in country music
Examples of 'getting criticised by' on the web
- Getting criticized by Sally activated an automatic tendency to self-protect
- Now, I'm not too worried about our players getting criticised by Australians,
- Getting booed by this crowd is like NASA getting criticized by Michelle Bachman: I find it hard to care.
- you would rather not see sports getting criticised by their international federations
- anyone who covers politicians aggressively will end up getting criticized by partisans
- Accountants are often getting criticised by clients for not knowing when the accounts they prepare will be delivered
- Rudy Giuliani is getting criticized by the NY Post for rooting for the Red Sox
- I keep getting criticized by John Kerry and others on my foreign policy expertise.
- I am always getting criticized by Kurio
- We might be getting criticised by the pundits, but that's what they do
- But Brown's plan is getting criticized by some legislators
- he is getting criticised by fans
- At the moment, Scottish football is getting criticised by all quarters
- plus I was getting criticised by my partner
- One of my clients was getting criticised by his manager
- The writing was clearly on the wall last week when Mourinho was getting criticised by that fool Blatter
- Just how sorry she was i heard she was getting criticised by Ulrika Jonnson like shes a beacon of morality
- Real estate speculators are getting criticised by President Obama and some of them are downright mad about it
Why the obsession with by and direct comparisons?
- Active: The police have arrested his son for shoplifting.
Passive: His son has been arrested for shoplifting.
- Active: Someone is suing the newspaper for libel.
Passive: The newspaper is being sued for libel.
- Active: They gave all the children prizes
Passive:The children were all given prizes.
- Active: The boss had warned her about it many times before.
Passive: She'd been warned about it many times before.
- Active: Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist in 1838.
Passive: Oliver Twist was written by Charles Dickens in 1838.
- Active: The Chinese probably invented gunpowder in the 9th century.
Passive: Gunpowder was probably invented by the Chinese in the 9th century.
- Active: A big black dog is chasing the cat round the garden.
Passive: The cat is being chased round the garden by a big black dog.
- Active: Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
Passive: Jesus was betrayed by Judas for thirty pieces of silver.
- Active: Michael Gove has criticised the passive voice in a memo to his staff.
Passive:The passive voice has been criticised by Michael Gove in a memo to his staff.
How it should be done
We use an active verb to say what the subject does:
- My grandfather was a builder. He built this house in 1930.
- It's a big company. It employs two hundred people.
We use a passive verb to say what happens to the subject
- The house is quite old. It was built in 1930.
- Two hundred people are employed by the company.
When we use the passive, who or what causes the action is often unknown or important ... if we want to say who does or what causes the action, we use by ...
- This house was built by my grandfather.
- Two hundred people are employed by the company.
A parting question.
Discussing the passive
- Silly passives that have been seen (by me) - http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2012/03/silly-passives-that-have-been-seen-by.html
- On (mis)identifying the passive - http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2011/11/on-misidentifying-passive-and-passive.html
Lessons on the passive
- Introduction to the passive - http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2012/02/introduction-to-passive.html
- Infinitives after passives - http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2013/06/infinitives-after-passives.html
- Passive repeorting structures - http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2013/06/passive-reporting-structures.html
Where to find good examples of the passive.
- BBC Learning English - http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv65.shtml
- British Council -
- English Test - http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/verbs/active-and-passive-voice
- Using English - quiz - http://www.usingenglish.com/quizzes/46.html
- Using English - by + agent - http://www.usingenglish.com/articles/use-by-agent-in-passive-voice.html
- About.com - http://esl.about.com/od/grammarstructures/a/passive_voice.htm
Links connected with the post.
- British National Corpus - sat on by - http://bnc.bl.uk/saraWeb.php?qy=sat+on+by&mysubmit=Go
- British Council - get - http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/verbs/active-and-passive-voice
- Tom Chivers in the Telegraph - writing about Gove's memo - http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100224103/michael-gove-doesnt-know-what-the-passive-voice-is/
- Elements of Style - http://www.bartleby.com/141/strunk5.html#11
- George Orwell - Politics and the English Language - http://www.netcharles.com/orwell/essays/politics-and-the-english-language.htm
Instances of named agents with getting criticized by in Google search
- NetApp are getting criticized by Chuck (again!), this time for making public our SSD roadmap
- Soul's art, which was a sort of lop-sided but nicely detailed Kishin egg soul, was getting criticized by Kid
- He couldn't believe he was getting criticized by Link, aka the guy who got them in the situation in the first place
- And here I am wondering what happened to D-Wade and Sir Charles when Wade was getting criticized by Charles
- since Saxton was getting criticized by Rogin in a left-wing journal,
- Al Thorton has been getting criticized by Sterling
- Yes, Mr. President, if your one-man army capable of tearing apart a tank is getting criticized by Joan Rivers and Bill Maher
- And the GOP's proposed defense cuts are getting criticized by Hillary Clinton, no less, which seems worthy of note
- Our friend, Colion Noir, and the NRA are getting criticized by Russell Simmons for having him as their newest spokesman.
- At first when I was getting criticized by Beth Phoenix I stood up for myself
- Maria was about to pass out and Elizabeth was getting criticized by Lady Catherine
- Tyreke has been getting criticized by Coach Westphal for his late game decision making
- Apparently the singer has been getting criticized by #teamnatural on her Instagram and blog