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The Verb. The Category of Voice.

Ranez.Ru > Помощь в учебе абитуриентам и студентам > Студенту > Английский язык > Теоретическая грамматика >

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The verbal category of voice shows the direction of the process as regards the participants of the situation reflected in the syntactic construction.

Wrote – was written

Meaning – direction of the action, whether the action is represented as issuing from its subject or as experienced by its object.

  • He wrote this letter yesterday. – This letter was written yesterday.

But The bells rang and The fabric washes easily. Is it the active voice? Why do we have the sentences They rang the bells and She washed the fabric. These are causative constructions.

Middle voice. Greek had the middle voice, the same is in Semitic languages. The weak point – there is no distinct set of forms.

Prof.Barkhudarov considers the middle meaning to be part of the active voice meaning. If it were part of the passive voice meaning it would be possible to use the by-phrase: ٭The bells rang by John; ٭The fabric washed by the girl.

Reflexive voice: He hurt himself. Meaning – the action is concentrated on one and the same person. Form – verb + reflexive pronoun. But reflexive pronouns can be omitted and the meaning of reflexivity remains: He shaved and dressed. Prof. Ilyish: He hurt himself and the child. Besides: He makes toys – He makes mistakes. And not always reflexive pronouns can be omitted: He found himself in a dark room.

Reciprocal voice: They met each other at the station. Meaning – mutuality of the action. The subject is often plural. Form – verb + reciprocal pronoun. But They met at the station.

Conclusion: if we insist on external being obligatory to form a voice (certainly in combination with meaning), we should refer all the cases mentioned previously to the active voice (non-passive): He opened the door. The door opened. The book reads well. He shaved. They kissed. So, it’s a poly-functional form.

Passive voice: be+en. 2 controversial problems:

1). The form – get and become (He got wounded in the war. He became surprised). - the verbs get and become retain to some extent their lexical meaning; - though Passive is a dependent form (Active is the basic one and Passive is a mere transform) there isn’t full correspondence between Active and Passive: e.g. The boy resembles his father. The hat suits you. – I am surprised. He was killed in the war. The radio was invented by Popov (theme-rheme).

Passive constructions:

  • Direct Passive (The letter was written yesterday)
  • Indirect Passive (I was given a very interesting book)
  • Prepositional Passive (The doctor was sent for) · Phraseological Passive (Care should be taken not to confuse these words)
  • Adverbial Passive (The house has not been lived in for many years)

2). Passive constructions and compound nominal predicates: The floor was washed only yesterday. – The floor is washed. Action :: result. How to treat the 2 case? Either as Statal Passive (simple verbal predicate) or a phrase (compound nominal predicate). The presence of the by-phrase, the continuous form of the verb, non-terminative verbs, the presence of modal verbs, the use of adverbials indicate passive constructions. e.g. The is closed. The shop is closed at 7.



What specific meanings do you distinguish within the set of forms, constituting the unmarked member of the voice opposition? Point out the verb-forms having medial, reflexive & reciprocal meanings in the following sentences:

  • She raised herself suddenly in the tall chair.
  • Arnie opened the rumble seat & helped Savina to get in.
  • The door opened & a man & a woman entered.
  • Erick & Savina walked in silence for a while.
  • He walked Andrew eight miles that first day.
  • The apparatus ran itself & observed itself.
  • One feels half-disembodied sitting like a shadow at the door.
  • Let us recite poems when we meet again.
  • I must end this letter.
  • The day ended, tranquil & bluish.


What method of linguistic analysis would you use to differentiate nominal predicates and passive voice forms?

  • Sir Laurence Olivier has been awarded the top honor for distinguished achievement.
  • It is often believed that intelligence tests are developed according to a sound scientific theory.
  • MPs were surprised & excited by Mr. Houghton's intervention.
  • Lots of people were obviously moved to tears at the Press show of that film.
  • All the songs were extremely well integrated with general pattern of the film.
  • Mr. Davis was detained & questioned for 45 minutes before being released.
  • Mrs. Strington was determined to reveal the secret.
  • I am awfully excited today.
  • When the dinner was finished, Louise went up to her room. 
  • I have always been attached by the idea that a man should devote his youth to study.


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