1. The passive voice is illustrated by the sentence Brazil were beaten by France in the final, in which the object of the active verb becomes the subject of the passive verb and the subject is expressed as an agent introduced by the preposition by. Passive verbs are formed with the verb be, and other verbs are used to form so-called ‘semi-passives’ in which the past participle of the verb is at least partly adjectival (e.g. He got changed / They seem bothered).
2. Other forms of the passive include:
a) impersonal constructions with it. It is believed that no action should be taken / It is felt that your complaint arises from a misunderstanding. Sir Ernest Gowers, who as a senior civil servant no doubt saw many such examples in correspondence that came his way, wrote (1965) that ‘the impersonal passive…is a construction dear to those who write official and business letters’. ‘It is reasonable enough in statements made at large,’ he continued, giving the example It is understood that the wanted man is wearing a raincoat and a cloth cap, ‘but when one person is addressing another it often amounts to a pusillanimous shrinking from responsibility’ (as in the examples given at the beginning of this paragraph).
b) double passive. This occurs with verbs such as attempt, begin, desire, endeavour, propose, threaten, and others involving constructions with a passive infinitive, as in The order was attempted to be carried out / No greater thrill can be hoped to be enjoyed. Clearly these types are often extremely awkward in not corresponding to a comparable active form (☒ They attempted the order to be carried out / ☒ We hope no greater thrill to be enjoyed), and a fully active construction should be used whenever possible: They attempted to carry out the order / We can hope to enjoy no greater thrill; in some cases the sentence can be rephrased, e.g. There was an attempt to carry out the order. Other verbs, such as expect, intend, and order, which are grammatically more versatile, will allow a double passive construction; we can say, for example, They ordered the deserters to be shot, and therefore the double passive form The deserters were ordered to be shot is acceptable.
c) the type she was given a watch. This use was once questioned on the grounds that the subject of the passive verb should correspond to the object of the active verb, whereas in this case she corresponds to an indirect object (They gave her a watch); but it is now a part of the language and beyond such objection.

Modern English usage. 2014.


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