When you change an active voice sentence into a passive voice sentence, does the transitivity of the verb change? For example, do we say "eat" is transitive in "Amy ate the apple" and then say "eat" is intransitive in "The apple was eaten (by Amy)"? According to the definitions "takes an object"/"doesn't take an object", we should, shouldn't we?

If that's right, then why do so many grammar books and websites give lists of transitive verbs? As soon as you use it in a passive voice sentence it's no longer a transitive verb.

And if that's right, then why mark any verb as transitive? These verbs are always both transitive (when in active voice) and intransitive (when in passive voice). It's interesting, though, that when a grammar book says that some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive, they are not talking about making sentences passive at all. They never mention that. They give examples like "eat": Laura eats at 6 pm every day. Laura eats French fries every Tuesday.

On the other hand, one website gives this test: If you can change a sentence from active to passive, the verb is transitive. It doesn't say that it's intransitive in the passive, but it doesn't say that it's transitive either.

Comments welcome.

CJ

1 2

Hello CalifJim,

Today, I saw this question, and I hoped a native speaker would answer it, but a few minutes ago, I saw it again unanswered. You've been teaching me four about four years, but I would like to share my views on this topic in hopes of getting a satisfactory answer from the native speakers in this forum. In my native language, transitive verbs are transitive in both active and passive sentences. I think in English or I'm ninety-nine percent sure that this characteristic of transitive verbs don't change. More concisely, in English, transitive verbs are transitive in either voice active or passive. I would like to provide a link I got it from Google when I searched for this topic. It is a forum, but I'm not a member there. I accidentally found this forum and copied the link so that I would paste it here. Please don't misunderstand if I answer your question or a better way of saying it "if I share my views or contribute to this question". I'm sure you know the answer firstly, because you're a native speaker secondly, because you're skilled in the field of grammar, thirdly because you have an access to all sources as we do.

https://www.google.iq/url?q=https://socratic.org/questions/do-transitive-active-and-transitive-pa...

Best wishes,

JA

Thank you for your comment, Joseph.

That link shows just what I'm talking about. It never says explicitly that even in the passive voice the verb that was transitive in the active voice is still a transitive verb. I wonder if the writers of these grammar websites expect us to assume that in the passive the verb is still transitive, or if they expect us to know that in the passive the verb is intransitive.

CJ

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You're welcome, my teacher.

You're right. I misread the information in the link😩. It's complicated, but it's still clear that "the subject" in the passive voice is affected by the action. However, it holds the position of the subject in the sentence in the passive form. I think symantically, it is an object. I left my comment on this post so that a linguist replied to your question, but unfortunately none of the native speakers here has said something on this question so far. By the way, your question is baffling and difficult😊. It's better for to zip up my mouth because I'm a foreign learner.

As Clive said yesterday, Aaargh!

Best wishes,

Joseph

Joseph Abecause I'm a foreign learner.

That makes no difference. Comments are welcome from everyone.

Joseph AAs Clive said yesterday, Aaargh!

Excellent use of Aaargh! We'll make a real pirate of you one of these days!

It may be a little too early to remind you, but don't forget that this year September 19 will be International Talk like a Pirate Day. Emotion: big smile

You can read about it here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Talk_Like_a_Pirate_Day

CJ

Thank you, CalifJim.

From now on, I'll say "Ahoy, maties!" instead of "Hello everyone" to start my posts😊 if it is okay, or I'll save it to "19, September of this year😊".

Best wishes,

Joseph

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Hi CJ

I went through your question with examples.

I would like to mention a few things on how I have remember learning the concept of passive voice (probably from simple grammar books meant for learners in India).

Yes, I remember reading a sentence which reads "Some verbs are used both transitively and intransitively".

Keeping this in mind I would and even now give examples as these:

The glass broke. Dan broke the glass.

The bell rang at 4. Manish rang the bell at 4.

And, I remember learning that only transitive verbs can be converted into passive form, or, in other words passive voice is possible only when the verb is transitive.

By calling a verb transitive, the book meant that the verb has an object. This was explained in another way as well:

The verb is transitive when the action passes from the doer to the done.

( Randall moved the chair. The chair was moved by Randall.)

At this place, I think I can consider your examples (Amy ate the apple. The apple was eaten). You have said that shouldn't the verb be called intransitive in passive. To that I have a question and want to read your comments:

Here, in passive, "The apple was eaten" can't we consider "eat" as transitive as the object though not always given but understood in line with the explanation that says the verb is transitive when the action passes from the doer to the done?

I don't know if my post adds any value to yours, for I know how well you parse sentences considering semantics, grammar, sense, and style. Nevertheless I wanted to add what I felt I should add and read your comments on that for they will be another lesson to me.

Please give your comments.

Suresh

Thank you for your comment.

vsureshAnd, I remember learning that only transitive verbs can be converted into passive form, or, in other words passive voice is possible only when the verb is transitive.

Yes. This is true. It's the traditional explanation.

vsureshYou have said that shouldn't the verb be called intransitive in passive.

That was a rhetorical question. My view is that the verb is transitive in both active and passive, but according to some theories of grammar, the verb changes from transitive to intransitive when the sentence changes from active to passive. This way of thinking of verb transitivity I find confusing.

vsureshHere, in passive, "The apple was eaten" can't we consider "eat" as transitive as the object though not always given but understood in line with the explanation that says the verb is transitive when the action passes from the doer to the done?

The question then is "What is the (direct) object in 'The apple was eaten' that is not given but understood?" In other words, what noun phrase can we add directly after 'was eaten' that makes sense as the true meaning of the sentence? (And we can't add a by phrase because that would make a prepositional phrase, not a direct object.)

The apple was eaten the mouse. The apple was eaten a tree.

Those don't make sense. And they don't seem to contain objects that shed any light on the true meaning of the original sentence.

If anything is 'not given but understood', it is a covert subject (like 'somebody'). In the passive voice there's a grammatical subject ('the apple' in this case) and a logical subject ('somebody').

But I'm digressing. The main question is whether it makes more sense to classify verbs as transitive (or not) on the basis of whether they can take a direct object in the general case or on the basis of whether they do take a direct object in each individual sentence.

By the first criterion The apple was eaten contains the transitive verb 'eat' because it comes from Somebody ate the apple, which shows that 'eat' can take a direct object. By the second criterion The apple was eaten contains the intransitive verb 'eat' because, in this particular sentence, there is no direct object.

If we think the second method is better, then maybe publishers need to stop writing "trans." and "intrans." next to the verb entries in their dictionaries. In this method there are no transitive and intransitive verbs. There are only transitive and intransitive uses of verbs in specific sentences.

CJ

CalifJim

The main question is whether it makes more sense to classify verbs as transitive (or not) on the basis of whether they can take a direct object in the general case or on the basis of whether they do take a direct object in each individual sentence


I understand.

Thank you,CJ

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