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Can anyone help, please?
Last Wednesday, we were talking about the passive voice in class, and we found something in a book called "English Syntax: A Grammar for English Language Professionals", by R. A. Jacobs, which surprised us.

In the chapter about passive voice, under the heading 'Prepositional verbs' we found the following examples, in which an intransitive verb is followed by a prepositional phrase:
"Seven monarchs have slept in that four-poster bed."
"A surveyor walked through the forest."

The author says about these sentences:
"The sentences make an assertion that includes a specification of the location in which the monarchs slept or through which the surveyor walked. Thus, syntactically and semantically, these sentences should not have passive voice counterparts. They have an intransitive verb plus a preposition, and they don't seem to have a suitable candidate for subject, since the subjects of passive voice clauses are prototypically the entities affected by the action expressed by the verb. Yet such counterparts exist:
'That four-poster bed has been slept in by seven monarchs.'
'The forest was walked through by a surveyor.'
We may not think of the bed as being affected by the sleeping, and certainly the forest seems unlikely to be affected by someone walking through it. But in fact we can envisage a slept-in bed with its rumpled sheets. We understand the bed to have ben somehow affected by having had so many high-ranking people sleep in it. Its value as an antique must surely have been enhanced. Notice that 'slept in' cannot be replaced by 'died in'. We don't normally visualise a 'died-in' bed."

My question here is: why is 'slept in' acceptable but 'died in' isn't?
Is there actually a grammatical rule to account for this? Or is it the author's personal opinion on the matter? What, if any, is the difference between both sentences?
If you ask ***, I don't like 'slept in' any better than I do 'died in'.

I'll appreciate any help.

Miriam
Comments  
His key point is the last sentence, "We don't normally visualise a 'died-in' bed." This sentence in not a rule, it's just an indication of what we can get away with when we're breaking the previous rule.

Really, it's just a fancy way of saying that "slept in" is accepted because it's commonly used, while "died in" is not.

"Died in" would be fine in the right situation. Imagine a king's bodyguard trying to stay out of trouble. "The King died in his bed?!" "Uh...well, the bed was certainly died in." Well, on second thought, maybe not.
Ryan,
I've read your post about a million times now.
You mean the whole thing makes sense and it doesn't, at the same time? ~chuckles~
It wlould be difficult for me, not being a native speaker of English, to decide when a construction like the 'died-in bed' would be right. I wish I had some concrete rule to help me, since my common sense doesn't seem to be helping right now. I still don't like either sentence! (that's not your fault, though... lol)
Thanks a lot for your post Emotion: smile

Miriam
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Glad to help if/when I can.

Jacobs give the rule, then says that in some cases it can and is broken. But, there is no concrete rule for breaking the rule.

He justifies this with his opinion that we all know what a slept in bed is, but few of us know what a died in bed is. That is, does the verb have a known affect on the 'bed'?

"The bed was slept in..."
brings to mind messy sheets and a pillow on the floor. We've all seen such a bed many times, every morning for instance.

"The bed was died in..."
brings to mind more questions than images. Who or what died in it? A young man, a dog? Are the sheets stained with blood? Is there a corpse?

So...there is no concrete rule. If the sentence brings to mind a unambiguious image, then it's probably fine.

That's English for you...
"If the sentence brings to mind an unambiguous image, then it's probably fine."

I see now where misunderstanding may start sometimes! As long as both the speaker/writer and the listener/reader can get similar mental images, everything will be ok. But there will be problems if what is a colourful painting for one is just a blank sheet of paper for the other! ~L~

I'm lucky we don't have that type of thing in Spanish (intransitive verbs turned transitive just by the addition of a preposition)... as far as I know.

Thank you again, Ryan. Emotion: smile)

Miriam
"what is a colourful painting for one is just a blank sheet of paper for the other"

Nice analogy! I hereby request permission to use it once in a while.

These kinds of English oddities are exactly what make for misunderstandings, things getting lost in translation, jokes falling flat.
Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.