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Using Passive Voice (#2), by Dennis Oliver

 

Using Passive Voice #2:
Can all verbs be made passive?
 

 

In sentences with passive verbs, the subject receives
the action: it is not the "doer" of the verb's action:

active:

  Many people visit "Dave's ESL Cafe."

passive:

   "Dave's ESL Cafe" is visited by
many people.
     

active:

  Someone stole Bob's car.

passive:

  Bob's car was stolen.
     

active:

  Someone will serve dinner
at 7:00 PM.

passive:

  Dinner will be served at 7:00 PM.

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Because subjects of passive verbs receive the action,
verbs that cannot have objects (intransitive verbs)
do not have passive forms. BE and linking verbs,
for example, do not have passive forms:

impossible:

  *is been, *am been, *are been,
*was been, *were been,
*has been been, *have been been,
*had been been, *can be been,
*want to be been, *used to be been
     

impossible:

  *is appeared, *are seemed,
*were become, *was looked, etc.

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Here are a few examples of other intransitive verbs.
They cannot be used in passive:

impossible:

  *is rained, *are happened,
*was went, *were listened,
*has been lived, *have been stayed,
*had been belonged, *can be slept,
*to be arisen, *to have been slept

 

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Special Notes:

1.  

A few verbs (including the sensory verbs) have
both transitive and intransitive meanings. For such
verbs, the transitive meaning can be passive, but
the intransitive meaning cannot:

Someone smelled the flower. (transitive) --->
The flower was smelled.

The flower smelled sweet. (intransitive) --->
no passive.

Someone tasted the food. (transitive) --->
The food was tasted..

The food tasted delicious. (intransitive) --->
no passive.

     
2.   Remember: Only transitive verbs can have
passive forms. Sometimes you may not be sure
if a verb is transitive or intransitive. When this
happens, check the verb in a dictionary. Most
dictionaries will have vt (transitive verb) or
vi (intransitive verb) to show this information.


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