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Here is the incorrect sentence: Last year, turnover was increased by 20%.
How to explain that this is an ergative verb and so the passive voice isn't correct in this sentence?
I previously taught: "turnover is an ergative verb, and so can be used both transitively (turnover increased) and intransitively (increase in turnover). For this reason, the passive voice is not used." Naturally this resulted in a lot of confused looking faces.
Any other way to go about explaining this usage?
Thanks!!
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In this usage, "turnover" is a noun, unless I'm really missing something. (not apple turnover)

"(turnover increased)" Isn't "increased" the intransitive verb and "turnover" the subject?

"(increase in turnover)" Don't we have two nouns separated by a preposition?
Both correct, IMO, but see the frequency:
39 on "turnover was increased by"
http://books.google.com/books?q=%22turnover+was+increased+by%22&btnG=Search+Books

614 on "turnover increased by"
http://books.google.com/books?q=%22turnover+increased+by%22&btnG=Search+Books
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Okay, I get it. You mean "to increase" is an ergative verb. Sorry. I thought "ergative" must mean something really wierd. But now I see your point.

Last year my boss increased my salary by 10%. (transitive)

Last year my salary increased by 10% (intransitive)

Last year my boss liked my work, so next week my salary is going to be increased by 10%. (illegal)

You want to know how to explain why this last sentence has to be allowed? I'll tell you. I don' t know.
thx for the replies!!
Sorry about the mix up.. 'increased' is the ergative verb
Would like to know how to explain how the sentence "Last year, turnover was increased by 20%" needn't be written in the passive voice.
How to explain that because 'increased' is an ergative verb, the passive voice isn't correct in this sentence?
Thx Marius for the stats. Increased is used (with relatively low frequency) in exactly the way I'm supposed to teach that it doesn't work. Nevertheless I need to explain why between the choices "Last year, turnover increased by 20%" and "Last year, turnover was increased by 20%" the first is correct usage.
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Why do you think that it can't be used as "my salary was increased" or "turnover was reduced"?

"Whoever it was who made the decision, and I don't know who it was, but I'm grateful to them increased my salary."

Transitive, passive seems okay to me!
The sentence "Last year, turnover was increased by 20%" is called a 'common mistake' in my course book, and I have to go into the classroom and teach why this choice is wrong while "Last year, turnover increased by 20%" is correct. Furthermore, I should explicitly explain why the passive voice is not okay.
The usage "turnover was increased" doesn't sound right because it suggests there is an agent actively involved in increasing turnover, which is what companies try to avoid. Attributing agency to increasing turnover seems to be the reason this sentence is a 'common mistake'.
I'm not really into this, ganesh, but are you really sure about your rule?

I was just looking at some things about "middle voice" which looked at ergative verbs as those which may be used in active voice, passive voice, and middle voice. I broke the window. The window was broken. The window broke. (Middle voice may not accept an agent.) They say regular intransitive verbs may not be used in the passive.(I am sneezed.)

Turnover increased would be middle voice and may not accept an agent. Management increased turnover by their stupid policies would be active voice. Turnover was increased through foolish policies would be passive voice. All legal.

Could you have one of the poorly written grammars Yankee once referred to?
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