Studium anglistiky na KAA UPOL

(23) Verbs and the Category of Voice.

(Active, Mediopassive, Passive; Formal and Functional Description; Restrictions in Passivisation).

(23.1) Grammatical Categories of Verbs

- E: tense, aspect, mood, voice, person, number

- primary verbal features: tense, aspect, mood, voice

- secondary nominal features: subject-verb agreement in person and number

- verbal categories manifested in: (a) flexion/(b) auxiliaries

- CZ: tense, aspect, mood, voice, person, number, gender, conjugation

(23.2) The Category of Voice

(23.2.1) The Active Voice

(1) regular flexion > productive/open class: 4 verbal forms

(2) irregular flexion > unproductive/closed class: 4 or 5 verbal forms

- irregular means of flexion manifested only in the past participle/passive participle forms

- bare form: null suffix

- 3rd per. SG present tense form: -(e)s suffix <> homonymous with the regular plural of N, observes the same rules for pronunciation/spelling x no change of the word-final -y

- present participle/gerund form: -ing suffix <> the same rules for pronunciation/spelling as the grading of ADJ/ADV

- past simple/past participle/passive participle: -ed suffix <> pronounced [id] after [t, d], pronounced [t] after voiceless consonants, pronounced [d] after voiced consonants and vowels

(23.2.2) The Passive Voice

- active clause structure: subject/agent + predicate + object/patient

- passive clause structure: subject/patient + predicate + object/agent

(a) the direct object shifts to the position of the subject and adopts the subject case

(b) the verb adopts the passive form: the finite form of be + the passive participle

(c) the agent may be expressed as a by-phrase

- inanimate subjects needn’t become by-adjuncts: she is interested in sculpture; I’m surprised at his attitude; we’re delighted at the prospect; I’m worried about it

(23.2.3) Verbal Complexes

(a) phrasal verbs: [V + PREP] + [OBJECT] > preposition stranding

- the PREP stranded to the end with the verb: the doctor should be sent for at once

- CZ: absent > equivalent is a subjectless passive clause: mělo by se ihned poslat pro lékaře

(b) phrasal verbs with an object close to the adverbial

- [V + PREP] exchangeable with transitive verb => passivisation possible, PREP stranded

- sleep in a bed = use a bed: nobody slept in the bed > the bed has not been slept in

(c) phrasal verbs with an adverb particle: the offer was turned down

(d) phrasal verbs with an adverb particle and a preposition: the losses have been made up for

(23.2.4) Double Object Structures

- CZ: impossible to passivise an indirect OBJ > one possible passive structure

- E: an indirect OBJ can be passivised after re-structuralisation > two possible passive structures, depending on the FSP

- John [Theme] has been awarded the 1st prize [Rheme] x the 1st prize [Theme] was awarded to John [Rheme]

(23.3) Mediopassive

- E: mediopassive = an active form with a passive meaning: the door closed

- CZ: reflexive passive: dveře se zavřely

- the subject of the mediopassive structure = the Patient

- with some action verbs with direct OBJ without PREP, in present or past simple

(a) general characteristics

- periphrastic structure1: it is (not) easy to + infinitive (it is easy to wash the clothes)

- mediopassive: the clothes wash easily

- periphrastic structure2: be easy/hard + infinitive (it is easy to believe a thing like that)

- mediopassive: that is easy to believe

- a change of meaning: mediopassive: his poems do not translate well x passive: his poem are not translated well

(b) modal possibility

- periphrastic structure: can (not) (the door can/can’t be locked)

- mediopassive: the door doesn’t/won’t lock; the lid shuts

(c) individual characteristics

- he is counted among the best > he counts among the best

- the dress is buttoned down the back > the dress buttons down the back

(23.4) Restrictions in Passivisation

- passivisation targets the direct object: only direct objects can be passivised

- E: direct object = the nominal complex immediately following the verb (syntactic criteria, based on distribution)

- CZ: direct object = the one in ACC (morphological criteria, based on the case category)

(a) *intransitive verbs

(b) subject must have the semantic role of Agent

- he received a good education > *a good education was received by him

(c) *(transitive) copula verbs

- have, get seem, appear, cost, measure, weigh, resemble, hold, lack, contain, etc.

- have = a copula V with the meaning of possess: he has a book > *the book is had by him

- get = with the meaning of receive, i.e. the subject is Patient: he got a watch = he was given a watch > *the watch was got by him

- x have/get passivised in infinitive: there was nothing to be had/to be got

- the measure phrases: close to copula verbs, their object is close to an adverbial and is not an animate Agent

(d) *verbo-nominal structures

- take courage > *courage was taken by him; have a nap, make a mistake

(e) *reciprocal/*reflexive /*infinitive/*gerund/?some clausal objects NOT passivised

- he excused himself > *he was excused by himself

- he loves to read > *to read is loved

- he admitted loving her > *loving her was admitted

- he suggested that such a case exists > ?that such a case exists was suggested > it was suggested that such a case exists


Dušková, Libuše, et al. Mluvnice současné angličtiny na pozadí češtiny. Praha: Academia, 2003.

Svoboda, Aleš, and Mária Opělová Károlyová. A Brief Survey of the English Morphology. Ostrava: Ostravská univerzita, 1993.

Other Sources

Veselovská, Ludmila. Přednášky a semináře: Morfologie 2. ZS 2003/04.

Veselovská, Ludmila. Přednášky a semináře: Syntax 1 a 2. ZS a LS 2003/04.


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