How can I explain in a linguistic way that the sentence "John was died" is ungrammatical?

purple aqua 580How can I explain in a linguistic way that the sentence "John was died" is ungrammatical?

In terms of syntax, the sentence seems to follow the rules of grammar. There are two options.

1. Subject -verb - complement.

Only certain past participles qualify as (subject) complements, in particular, certain stative verbs.

John was tired.
John was bored.

"Die" is not one of these verbs.

2. Subject - verb, where the verb is is passive voice

John was hit. (transitive)
John was killed. (transitive)

BUt the verb must be transitive. "Die" is intransitive, so a passive form is not possible.

There are many verbs which do not satisfy either requirement (intransitive, dynamic verbs)

X John was slept. (intransitive, dynamic)

X John was looked. (intransitive, dynamic)




Consider these sentences

John was tired.

John was late.

John's parents are happy.

Here, tired, late and happy are complements and not verbs.

In passive constructions, main verbs are preceded by be verb forms.


John was taken to hospital.

John and his brother were taught English by Ms Mary.

Here, take and teach are in passive form as they are transitive verbs—they take objects. Only transitive verbs can be expressed in passive form.

Verb die is an intransitive verb that does not take an object. Thus, what you have is ungrammatical.

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Thank you. your answer helped me a lot. Another question that doesn't concern my first question. Are you comfortable on making structure trees?

I don't understand what you mean by structure trees.

I think what you mean is something related to sentence analysis.

It is like a sentence analysis but in the form of a syntax tree.

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