Saturday, September 22, 2012

In the Passive Voice, All Verbs are Transitive



Danielle writes in:
Hi Snarky! Love your blog!  Okay, I thought I understood the difference between intransitive and transitive verbs. But yesterday my teacher said that when you're using the passive voice, all verbs are transitive. Huh? Please explain this. Thanks! 
Hi Danielle! Your teacher is absolutely right.

As you know, many verbs can be either transitive or intransitive, depending on context. So don't bother trying to memorize which verbs are which. Instead, learn the rules so you can always get it right.

Quick rules: 
  • Transitive verbs are action verbs that require a direct object. The verb's action is transferred directly to the object, which can be a noun, pronoun, phrase, or clause.
  • Find the direct object by asking Subject + Verb + What/Whom? I eat a sandwich for lunch every day. I eat what? A sandwich. That's the direct object. Therefore, in this sentence 'eat' is a transitive verb.
  • Intransitive verbs don't require a direct object. Right after taking a shower every morning, I eat. I eat what? The sentence doesn't say, so there is no direct object. In this sentence, 'eat' is an intransitive verb.
  • Sentences in the passive voice always contain a transitive verb. When we use the passive voice, the subject is hidden there is always a direct object, which means the verb is always transitive.

Try this: Take any sentence in the passive voice and turn it around using the Subject + Verb + What/Whom? formula. Fill in the hidden subject.
  1. My bike was stolen. [Someone] + stole + what? My bike (direct object). Steal is a transitive verb.
  2. Students are given detention if they are late to class. [The teacher] + gives + what? Detention (direct object). To whom? Students (indirect object). Since there is a direct object, give is a transitive verb.
  3. Mistakes were made. [We/they] + made + what? Mistakes (direct object). Make is a transitive verb.
  4. The football game was played under the bright lights. [The teams] + played + what? The football game (direct object). Since there is a direct object, play is a transitive verb.

13 comments:

  1. It is fascinating how you contrived to fully uncover the subject which you have selected for this precise entry. BTW did you use any alike posts as a source of knowledge to complete the whole picture which you have posted in your article?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I still do not understand. For the 3rd statment, "Mistakes were made" where is the subject? I don't understand how "made" randomly becomes the transition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mistakes are made. Change to active voice. [Someone (understood)] made mistakes. The verb "made" is transitive because it has an object. Made what? Mistakes. The key is to change the passive voice to active to find the object. OR just remember all passive verbs are transitive.

      Delete
  3. You have posted such precious and informative article which gave me lot of information. To get the best tips of correct your sentence fluently then must search our site how to correct my english

    ReplyDelete
  4. What about "I'm broken". Where is the direct object?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am broken subject I / linking verb am / predicate adjective broken

      Delete
  5. Hey, guys! If passive and active voices are indeed indistinguishable for you, this source can teach you what cases require what voice and how to use them properly, follow and be advanced in English http://royalediting.com/usage-tips-of-passive-voice

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My students love the "zombie test" for passive verbs. If you can put "by zombies" after the verb, it is passive. Sorry I do not remember where I heard this to give credit to the author.

      Delete
  6. I have studied active voice and passive voice in school but never understood well, you have just open up my mind.

    ReplyDelete