Friday, 5 June 2015

Active and Passive Voice

Active and Passive Voice Sentences

I’m happy to share on my blog the thoughts that crossed my mind regarding active and passive voice sentences and the responses of Mr Rod Mitchell to these thoughts. I had the privilege of meeting him while sharing my thoughts to discussions topics, raised in ELT Professional Around The World, a community in LinkedIn. He and I got to know each other through our contributions.

I had some lingering doubts about how to name a sentence as active or passive. They resulted from definitions accorded to ‘transitive’ and ‘intransitive’. They achieved focus while I took a look at the examples A S Hornby provides under the Verb Patterns in his A Guide to Patterns and Usage in English.

I selected a few examples as representative of some verb patterns in A S Hornby’s Guide and based my doubts on their structures. I sent these to Rod Mitchell seeking his guidance and help. He gladly obliged.

There are four sets of correspondence between us. Each set includes my queries and Rod Mitchell’s responses.

Correspondence
Sections 1—3 are summative and provide the essence of what active and passive sentences are in Rod’s own words. You’ll see a detailed account of my doubts and his responses in Section 4. Reading sections 1—3 first will enable us to understand and appreciate better the help Rod Mitchell provides in Section 4.

Section 1
Rod
We have to be clear about what “active” and “passive” really are with regard to the English verb system. The traditional descriptions are based on Latin grammar, in which the verb itself has active and passive forms:

“Dominus portam aperit.” The head of the household opens the door.
“Porta aperitur.”                The door is opened / The door opens.
“Porta domino aperitur.”   The door is opened by the head of the household /
                                           The door opens by means of the head of the household.

The active in Latin shows that the subject does an action; the passive shows that the action happens to the subject, or that the subject does an action that is caused by an agent.

Section 2
Rod
English doesn’t have a passive in this sense. The so-called passive in English is in reality a verb + result adjective construction. That is why teachers and students can get confused by “I am bored” – is it passive or not? “I am bored by this film” makes it seem passive, but this is only by adding in extra information (by the film) where we can see the cause of the boredom.

The meaning of the active and passive are more important. The active is personal, as it focuses our attention on the “doer” or the “undergoer”:
John opens the door. –               this is a personal active
The door opens. -                       this is a personal “passive”
John underwent an operation. – this is a personal “passive”.

That is to say, English verbs themselves can be active or passive in how they focus the action on the subject; “open” is active and passive [verbs like this are often called “middle” or “ergative”]; “undergo” is passive in its own terms.


An ergative verb can be used in both transitive and intransitive way with the same meaning, where the object of the transitive verb is the same as the subject of the intransitive verb: The verb ’grow’ is ergative because you say ‘she grew flowers in her garden’ and ‘flowers grew in her garden’. Advanced Learner’s Dictionary


Another important thing to keep in mind is that there is not actually a direct relationship between active and passive. Many active sentences can’t be made passive, and many so-called passives do not have an active “equivalent”.

We call a sentence ‘active’ or ‘passive’ because of the meaning it conveys or carries, not because of its structure.


Section 3
Rod
When I teach the passive, I always FIRST focus on the semantics of it. Starting from structure (particularly in the generative sense) gives the wrong understanding of what the passive and active really are.

Cooking or engineering is a good start;

Sydney harbour Bridge was built in the 1930s by XXX. It spans 2 kilomteres and each section was prebuilt before being assembled as the bridge advanced.

The passive is used because the focus is on the bridge and what happened to it.

I at times use examples such as police reports or military propaganda:

An Iraqi police station was destroyed by a smart bomb with some collateral damage.

This is typical US military press report language. They want the focus to be on the Iraqi Police Station (and hence BAD in the minds of the gullible public), the destruction was done by a smart bomb ("smart" also being a clever piece of propaganda), and the "some collateral damage" is just to be expected.

An Iraqi news report would put it very differently:

An American bomber pilot destroyed an Iraqi Police Station as well as destroying neighbouring buildings and cars by using a guided bomb, killing all inside and many passersby.

The passive "hides" the actor; the active puts the f
ocus onto the actor. 

Section 4

All these thoughts are amply explained and elaborated on by Rod while clearing my doubts about examples given in VP 1 to 10 quoted by me in my letter to him in relation to the understanding of active and passive voice sentences and to how they operate in real life.

Please read the following. You’ll to take the trouble of moving back and forth as the queries and responses are interconnected.  

Part I
When a non-native learner learns English grammar they’re beset with disturbing doubts. Non-native teachers may not have the knowledge to sufficiently satisfy their learners’ curiosities.

One such area is the relationship between SVO sentences and passivisation. We non-natives infer generally that sentences with transitive verbs (‘active’ sentences) can be put into the passive. But while some SVO sentences in a verb pattern lend themselves to passivasation, several others in the same pattern do not.

A. S, Hornby in his A Guide to Patterns and Usage in English:
“Patterns 1 to 19 are of verbs used transitively (that is, with a direct object). Patterns 20 to 25 are of verbs used intransitively (that is without a direct object).”

My doubts:
I
VP1® SVD.O.
I know your name.                          Your name is known by me. (unusual)
He dug a deep hole.                        A deep hole was dug (by him) 
She has had breakfast.                    Breakfast has been had been had by her. (unusual)
He cut himself.                                                        ?
She said ‘Good morning’.                                       ?                                       
She laughed a merry laugh. (cognate object)       ---
She smiled her thanks.         (cognate object)       ---
This climate does not suit me.                                 ?
Please describe clearly what you saw                      ?

My sentences:
Do you know how to do it?
I have a lot of property.
I want breakfast.

Rod Mitchell’s explanation:
SVD.O.®1) VP1

(a quick note:“Your name is known by me” – this is unusual because of the role of
“me” – I am a reference in this context, and therefore the correct preposition is “to”:

London is familiar to me.
According to my information, this should be the Central Post Office.
Your name is known to me.

“To” is used because it refers our attention TO the location where the information is to be found.)

Verbs like “dig”, “have [breakfast]”, “laugh” are subject-focusing, and are transitive and intransitive:

He dug a deep hole. A deep hole was dug (by him).
The mole dug deep down.

She laughed a merry laugh. A merry laugh was laughed (by her).
She laughed merrily.
Such verbs, given semantic logic, can also be reflexive (and therefore transitive):

He cut some paper. Some paper was cut by him.
He cut and cut and cut until he had got all the way through.
He cut himself with the knife. He was cut by himself with a knife.  (?)

Some verbs, like “say” and “see”, can only be transitive:

She said ‘Good morning’. Good morning was said (by her).       (?)

He saw the dog on the road : The dog on the road was seen by him.
The butler saw the visitor to the waiting room : The visitor was seen to the waiting room by the butler.

Note that in this case : “Please describe clearly what you saw ?”, because the focus is on “you” and what you saw, it is therefore personal, and the passive can’t be used. Putting it in the passive changes the focus:

“Please describe what was seen by you” – this puts the focus on the object(s) seen.

Verbs like “smile” and “suit” fit into a different category, being verbs that are intransitive, and when they have a direct object (and so syntactically transitive), the direct object is being “transported” by the smile.

She smiled her thanks. = her thanks were conveyed to the other person by her smiling; her smiling in itself is essentially an intransitive act.

This climate does not suit me. – “me” here strictly speaking is indirect – I am the
(non)recipient of a state of suitability.

Two other examples are these:

They closed up shop at ten.
They set up house together.

These are also essentially intransitive clauses despite being transitive in syntax. Like “smile”, there is a causative effect (the smile being conveyed to the receiver, the shop being closed, etc.), however such sentences cannot be made passive because (1) they are subject-focusing and therefore personal, and (2) the objects have a “resultative stative” role. “Close up shop” essentially means that the work is now finished; i.e. they are now resting. “Set up house” means that they are now living together, and it could be in house, a flat, an apartment, or even a tent if they are Bedouin. Neither “shop” or “house” refer to a real shop or house. “Her thanks” also are not real “thanks” – she did not actually say the word “Thanks”. However, the result is the same as if she really had said “Thanks”.

Do you know how to do it? : this is a personalised sentence – I want to know if YOU know how to do it. Such personalised sentences cannot be made passive because the passive is impersonal.

I want breakfast. : this is also very personal. The passive is possible, but very strange except in very impersonal contexts (The escaped prisoners are wanted for murder).

This is like “I love you” – this sentence is so personal that the passive (You are loved by me) is never used – except in a very impersonal case, such as a psychologist trying to convince a suicidal person that he/she is actually loved.

“have” – this can only be made passive when “have” has an action-active role:
Everyone had fun : personal focus
Fun was had by everyone. : impersonal focus

In “possessive” contexts, “have” doesn’t refer to an action, it is “stative active”. Statives cannot be made passive (in this “have” fits in with “smile thanks”, “suit me”, “close up shop”, “set up house”, etc.).
___________________________________________________________________________

My doubts:
II
VP 2® SV O (not v+ to-infinitive)
It has begun to rain.                                   
Please try to do better next time.

My sentence: He began to advise me.

Rod’s explanation:
 The to + infinitive is NOT a noun; these sentences are intransitive, and so cannot be made passive:
It has begun to rain.
Please try to do better next time.
He began to advise me. (= he began the activity of advising me)

HOWEVER, the third example does have a direct object – which is the direct object of “advise”:

I began to be advised by him. (= I began the activity of being advised by him)

The distinction is; in “he began to advise me”, “he” is the focus of the sentence. In the second (I began to be advised by him), I am the focus.

English is a topic-focusing language; whatever goes at the beginning of the sentence is normally the topic of the sentence, and the syntax of the sentence adapts to that.
__________________________________________________________________________________
'
My doubts
III
VP 2®  SVO(not) to-infinitive (=obligation)
I shall have to go.

VP3®  SVO (not) to-infinitive
I do not want anyone to know.

VP3®  SVO (there + to be +noun)
I don’t want there to be another fight.

VP4®  SVO(to be)C  
Many people supposed him to be innocent.  He was supposed to be innocent by many people.
He declared himself to be a member of...              (no passive is possible)

Do you think him to be innocent?                  Is he thought to be innocent?
Do you think (that) he’s innocent?                               ?
They’ve proved that they’re worthy of promotion. That they are worthy of promotion has
                                                                                     been proved (?)
VP4®  SV it C Clause/phrase
Do you think it odd that I should live by myself? Is it thought odd that I should...
I think it a pity to waste them                                It’s thought a pity to waste them(?)

Rod’s explanations
Categories VP 2-4 are really the same category as the first VP2, and the “active” – “passive” variation depends on the same reasoning.

I shall have to go. : this is an intransitive sentence; “to go” is NOT a noun and therefore not an object.

I do not want anyone to know. : again a personal sentence that cannot be made passive (*”anyone is not wanted to know by me” means nothing – if you said tis to a native speaker, they would not understand). “Anyone to know” is a subordinate clause.

I don’t want there to be another fight. : again a personal sentence that cannot be made passive (“There to be another fight is not wanted by me” – this might be understood, but it is very abnormal).

“Declare X” (like think and prove) is a regular transitive, and can be made passive.
“He declared himself to be a member of... “ : “He himself was declared to be a member of …”
“He declared John to be a member of …” : “John was declared to be a member of …”
“He declared war on the Turks” : “War was declared on the Turks (by him)”.

They’ve proved that they’re worthy of promotion.
That they are worthy of promotion has been proved.

Do you think it odd that I should live by myself? – this one cannot be made passive; it is personal, being “you”. However, when the context is very impersonal (not you, or me, or them, or …), then the “passive” is used : “Is it thought odd that I should...”.

The same is true for “I think it a pity to waste them” – this is too personal to be passivized. The impersonal equivalent is:

It’s thought to be a pity to waste them.

However, the impersonal form is more commonly used when the activity is already happening, and so this is more apt:

Wasting them is thought to be a pity.
__________________________________________________________________________________

My doubts
IV
VP5A®  SV O infinitive
Watch that boy jump!                                                               ?
Did anyone hear John leave the house                                     ?
I like to hear her sing.                                                                ?

Rod’s explanation
Watch that boy jump! - this is an imperative – very personal, and so can’t be made passive.

Did anyone hear John leave the house ? – again a very personal sentence that cannot be passive.

I like to hear her sing. – again, a very [personal sentence that cannot really be made passive. “I” and my liking is the focus of the sentence, not her singing. Essentially, the sentence is intransitive. 

VP5B®  SVO infinitive
They made me do it.                                              I was made to do it.
What makes you think so?                                                  ?
I’ll let you have the news.                                                   ?      
I have never known him behave so badly before.  He has been never known to ....
Shall I help you carry the box upstairs?                             ?
     
Rod’s explanation
“They made me do it.”
“I was made to do it.”
What makes you think so?

In older English, the first sentences was “They made me to do it.” (cf. They forced me to do it, I was forced to do it). The passive has kept the older structure, whereas the active has transferred to another category, that of contexts where the bare infinitive is used.

The preposition “to” shows that the subject (etc.) had a goal. “They forced me to do it”, “I was forced to do it”, “I was made to do it” expresses that “they” (or whoever the agent is) wanted/aimed to make me do it.

“They made me do it” has entered into the category of cases like the following:

I must do it.
They let me do it.
They made me do it.
I will do it.
I can do it.
I’ll let you have the news.
I have never known him behave so badly before.

The absence of “to” shows that the nuance of “goal” is absent. The information is presented as a “fact”, not a “goal”. “They forced me to do it” shows that that was their goal (me to do it); “they made me do it” simply presents that as a matter of fact.

He has been never known to behave so badly before.
He was heard to say that he wanted to be President.

“To” here has its reference (= goal) role – the presentation is impersonal, and also is not necessarily true; the person speaking wants us to believe that, but maybe it is not true. This use of the passive with such verbs is common in journalese to give this nuance of “it is believe to be so”.

Shall I help you carry the box upstairs? – this is a personal sentence (“I” am the focus”, and so it cannot be passive.
(cf. I was helped up the stays = I had difficulty going upstairs, and so I was helped).
___________________________________________________________________________

My doubts
V     
VP5B®  SVO infinitive
She likes to have the house look clean and tidy.                 ?
He would have had her believe that ...                                ?

Rod’s explanation
She likes to have the house look clean and tidy. – a personal intransitive sentence that can’t be passive.
He would have had her believe that ... ? – a stative focusing and so it can’t be made passive.

VP6A®  SVO present participle
I saw the thief running away.                            The thief was seen running away (by me).
Can you smell something burning?                                      ?
Just look at the train coming down!

Rod’s explanation
Can you smell something burning? – a personal sentence that can’t really be made passive in ordinary use (Can something be smelled burning by you? is very strange – it almost means “do you have the power of smelling burning things?)

Just look at the rain coming down! – an imperative sentence, and so cannot be made passive (it is too personal).


VP6B®  SVO present participle
I found him working at his desk.                        He was found working at his desk (by me).
The news left me wondering what would...                            ?

Rod
The news left me wondering what would... :: I was left wondering by the news (as to) what would

VP6B®  SVO present participle
I can’t have you doing that.
He soon had them all laughing.

Rod
I can’t have you doing that.
He soon had them all laughing. – stative active sentences, and so can’t be passive.
___________________________________________________________________________

My doubts
VI
VP7A®  SVO adj
She flung all the windows open.                        All the windows were flung open (by her).
The pain drove her almost mad.                                              ?
Raise you head high!                                          Imperative cannot be passivised?
He shouted himself hoarse.                                                     ?

Rod
The pain drove her almost mad. :: She was almost driven mad by the pain.

Raise you head high! – the imperative is very personal, referring to “you”, and so can’t be passivized, unless “you” are the direct object : “(You) get out there and be seen!”

“He shouted himself hoarse.” – cannot be made passive (this sentence is intransitive [resultative active], like “she smiled her thanks”)

VP7B
I found the box empty.                                        The box was found empty (by me).
He likes his coffee strong.                                                       ?
I want everything ready by this evening.                                 ?

Rod
He likes his coffee strong.  “His coffee is liked strong “ - this is only possible when “he” is the person who made the coffee, not the drinker.
I want everything ready by this evening. – this is too personal to be passive. Verbs like “want” and “love” are rarely passivized because they are so personal.
___________________________________________________________________________

VII
VP8®   SVO noun
They elected Mr Grey (as) Chairman.                  Mr Grey was elected (as) Chairman.
He made the company what it is today.            The company is made what it is today...(?)
They found the place a prosperous village
  and (they) left it a ruin.                                                             ?

Rod
He made the company what it is today. The company WAS made what it is today...
They found the place a prosperous village and left it a ruin. > The place was found a prosperous village and left (as) a ruin.
___________________________________________________________________________

VIII
VP9®  SVO past participle
I heard my name called.                                                               ?
He had seen town destroyed by bombing.                                    ?

Rod
I heard my name called. : I heard someone call my name.
He had seen the town [as it was] destroyed by bombing. – The town being destroyed by bombing had been seen by him.
__________________________________________________________________________________

IX
VP10®  SVO adv. Adj.
You should wind it up.                                         It should be wound up (by you).
The child picked itself up.                                                           ?
Have you packed them up?                                  Have they been packed up (by you)?

Rod
The child picked itself up. – cannot be made passive – this is personal active.

VP10A®  SVO noun
We must lock up the house.                            The house must be locked up (by us).
She put on an air of innocence.                     An air of innocence was put on (by her). (?) 
__________________________________________________________________________________

My doubts
X
How do we explain this?
What is an exact definition of a transitive verb?

1.
C.E.Eckersley and J M Eckersley in their A Comprehensive English Grammar say:
 ‘When the action expressed by the verb goes from a subject to an object, that verb is called a TRASITIVE verb.’

Note: This definition appears defective.

2.
Michael Swan says:
A transitive verb is one that can have an object.
An intransitive verb is one that cannot have an object or be used in the passive.

Note: Does Swan say by implication that all transitive verbs may not be put in the passive?

Thanks for the help.

Rod’s explanation:
How do we explain this confusing issue? By focusing not on the syntax, but on the verbs and other players in the sentence. Active and passive are not grammatical properties, they are semantic-syntactic properties that have meaning.

A transitive verb is a verb that has a direct object. However, in English (and many other languages), this is a structural characteristic:

S – V – O

However, this structural transitivity covers various types of verb, transitives, transitive-intransitives, causative transitives, passive transitives, etc. Often it is these aspects that impact on whether an active can be passivized, or a passive can be activised.

Eckersley and Eckersley give the standard traditional description, BUT which is restrictive – or, as you say, defective. For example, it doesn’t include verbs like “undergo”.

‘When the action expressed by the verb goes from a subject to an object, that verb is called a TRANSITIVE verb.’

In verbs like “undergo”, the action expressed by the verb goes from the object to the subject.

Note: This definition appears defective.

The key semantics are the contrast between “personal” and “impersonal”, and the related “topic focusing”. The passive is impersonal and object-topic-focusing, and the active is personal and subject-topic-focusing.

Michael Swan.

A transitive verb is one that can have an object.
An intransitive verb is one that cannot have an object or be used in the passive. 

This is better, in that it focuses on the construction rather than the subject to object affect. 

However, intransitive verbs can appear in the passive in certain cause-and-effect constructions:

They swam across the river : S – V – PrepO

The river was swum across : O – BE – V – Prep 

___________________________________________________________________________

Part II
What follows contains doubts arising from the explanations offered by Rod Mitchell:

I thank you, Rod, from the bottom of my heart (I don’t know if this is an English expression, this is how we Indians express our deep gratitude in English as we do in our own languages). The quickness with which you responded doesn’t amaze me at all for I know you have everything at your finger tips. Expressing them with such clarity and simplicity, too. Nor am I amazed at my slowness for I’ve taken more days than you did, to understand, assimilate and then shape my doubts. I’m a slowcoach. I’m so unsure that I need to say to myself twice or thrice before I can write a sentence as far as my thoughts on English syntax is concerned. Even then I may not land perfectly.  

But now I have a fair idea of the notions surrounding active and passive voice statements and am in a position to provide an explanation, thanks to you.

I need more answers.

My doubts
I
The news left me wondering what would...
     I was left wondering by the news (as to) what would...
        (Isn’t this usually said without the ‘by-phrase’? Because the agent is not essential here)
The pain drove her almost mad.
    She was almost driven mad by the pain. 
Please describe what you saw.
    Please describe what was seen by you.  

I can imagine these passives being used but I’m not sure about the following:
1. He cut himself with the knife.
    He was cut by himself with a knife.  (?)  Isn’t this awkward and unnatural?
2. She said ‘Good morning’.
    Good morning was said (by her).       (?) Can ‘good  morning’ be a topic of a sentence?
3. “He declared himself to be a member of... “ :
     “He himself was declared to be a member of …”   awkward and unnatural?
4.  Everyone had fun.
     Fun was had by everyone.                 
Can’t imagine ‘fun’ as a topic in this context.
5. He had seen the town [as it was] destroyed by bombing.
     The town being destroyed by bombing had been seen by him. 
                                          Even if ‘the town’ were the topic, this passive sounds unnatural.
6. He began to advise me.
    I began to be advised by him.
    Even when ‘I’ is the focus as in
          I was confused; I had choices but the difficulty was
          the choosing. Now one looked good, now another,
          better. ...
   
Isn’t ‘John who was listening to me all the while began to advise me’ natural or should the
paragraph complete itself with ‘I began to be advised by John’? Or can either be used and
 considered normal paragraph completion?  

 All the passivised sentences are syntactically possible. But do people use them?   What contexts occasion these passives?  Or the argument that “English is a topic-focusing language; whatever goes at the beginning of the sentence is normally the topic of the sentence, and the syntax of the sentence adapts to that” is good enough for these passivisations to occur in conversations as acceptable ones? Or does mere possibility of passivisation mean they are naturally occurring sentences?

Rod’s response:
(“I thank you from the bottom of my heart” is also an English expression, as well as many other languages, at least in Europe)

To answer your queries.

(1) The news left me wondering what would...  I was left wondering by the news (as to) what would...

Your question: “Isn’t this usually said without the ‘by-phrase’? Because the agent is not essential here”

My answer : it is more commonly said without the “by phrase”, just as many or even most passive sentences don’t have the “by phrase”. However, it is correct to use the “by phase”. The “by phrase!” shows that the news caused the wondering. In the following example, the news itself doesn’t cause the wondering. Something else caused me to wonder about the news.

I was left wondering about the news (as to) what would...

(2) He cut himself with the knife. He was cut by himself with a knife.

Your question: Isn’t this awkward and unnatural?

My answer: It is not so much awkward or unnatural, but rather “unusual”. It is a way of highlighting that he himself cut himself,  that he was not cut by someone else. However, it is more commonly put as an active.

(3) She said ‘Good morning’.  Good morning was said (by her).

Your question: (?) Can ‘good  morning’ be a topic of a sentence?

My answer: the objects of verbs like “say”, “speak”, etc. can be the topics of the sentences, certainly.

German was spoken by most people present.

“Good mornings” were said by all present, and then business started.

(4) “He declared himself to be a member of...” :  “He himself was declared to be a member of …” 

Your question: awkward and unnatural?

My answer: no, not awkward or unnatural. However, the second does not mean the same as the first. Using the -self forms like these emphasises the topic – puts the focus solely on the topic. He himself was declared to be a member, not anyone else.”

(5) Everyone had fun. Fun was had by everyone.

Your question: Can’t imagine ‘fun’ as a topic in this context.

My answer: it is perfectly normal – and very easy to imagine. The important thing to realise is that “topic” does not equal either “actor/subject” or “object/subject/patient”. It is simply the topic of the sentence. The topic of the sentence is the fun that everybody had.

My note: For what ‘patient’ is, see my Part V.

(6) He had seen the town [as it was] destroyed by bombing. The town being destroyed by bombing had been seen by him. 

Your question: Even if ‘the town’ were the topic, this passive sounds unnatural.

My answer: the [as it was] in the first sentence is significant. The passive sentences has “missing” information : The town [as it was] being destroyed by bombing had been seen by him.

It means that he saw the town at that time when it was being destroyed by bombing. Like all sentences, you have to realise that the context is all important. Within context, “The town being destroyed by bombing had been seen by him” is perfectly logical and correct. 

(7) He began to advise me.  I began to be advised by him.

Your question: “isn’t ‘John who was listening to me all the while began to advise me’ natural or should the  paragraph complete itself with ‘I began to be advised by John’? Or can either be used and considered normal paragraph completion?  

My answer: “John who was listening to me all the while began to advise me” – in context is natural – correct. HOWEVER, it is missing commas : “John, who was listening to me all the while, began to advise me”

The other two (He began to advise me.  I began to be advised by him.) are both natural, correct, and differ according to the topic focusing (him or me).

(8) Your question: “All the passivised sentences are syntactically possible. But do people use them?   What contexts occasion these passives?  Or the argument that “English is a topic-focusing language; whatever goes at the beginning of the sentence is normally the topic of the sentence, and the syntax of the sentence adapts to that” is good enough for these passivisations to occur in conversations as acceptable ones? Or does mere possibility of passivisation mean they are naturally occurring sentences?”

My answers:
 A) “All the passivised sentences are syntactically possible.”

Not all passivized sentences are syntactically possible. Some are impossible.

B) “But do people use them?”
     What contexts occasion these passives? –

Yes, people do use the passive a lot, when they are focusing on the patient of the action, and/or when they want to “hide” the actor.

C) [Is] the argument that “English is a topic-focusing language; whatever goes at the beginning of the sentence is normally the topic of the sentence, and the syntax of the sentence adapts to that” is good enough for these passivisations to occur in conversations as acceptable ones?

Yes, it is good enough, keeping in mind that there is more to just this. For example, if the topic of the sentence is the patient of the verb, then the sentence is going to automatically be passive.

D) […] does mere possibility of passivisation mean they are naturally occurring sentences?”

Passive sentences are naturally occurring sentences, because they have an independent semantic role that is very different from active structures.
___________________________________________________________________________

My doubts
II
The so-called passive in English is in reality a verb + result adjective construction. That is why teachers and students can get confused by “I am bored” – is it passive or not? “I am bored by this film” makes it seem passive, but this is only by adding in extra information (by the film) where we can see the cause of the boredom.

(a)
I was broken by the news.
I was touched by her generosity.

Are these sentences similar to ‘I’m bored by the film’? Are these seemingly passive, too?

(b)
The ball was thrown by the boy.
The ball was hit by the batsman.
The mobile was broken by the child. 
The thief was captured by the police.
The town was destroyed by bombing.
The room was cleaned by the maid.

Aren’t these acts resultative, too? Don’t these contain verb + result adjective construction, too?

Rod
(9)
I was broken by the news.
I was touched by her generosity.

Your question: Are these sentences similar to ‘I’m bored by the film’? Are these seemingly passive, too?

My answer: the first thing to say is that English does not really have a passive. The construction we call “passive” is actually a stative construction that shows result of an action, where the result is a result adjective derived from a verb:

This paper is torn.
This is torn paper.
This paper is being torn by me.
I am tearing this paper.

Therefore, ‘I am bored by the film’, ‘I was broken by the news’, ‘I was touched by her generosity’, ‘the window was broken by the boy’ are FIRST stative result.

We only know if there is an action focus from context. “Passive” in itself is a context-based reading of the construction. It is not the meaning of the construction itself. So – the only true answer is “This paper was torn” can be both stative or “passive” (= resultative passive) according to context.

Rod
(10)
The ball was thrown by the boy.
The ball was hit by the batsman.
The mobile was broken by the child. 
The thief was captured by the police.
The town was destroyed by bombing.
The room was cleaned by the maid.

Your question : Aren’t these acts resultative, too? Don’t these contain verb + result adjective construction, too?

My answer : Yes – you are beginning to understand. The passive is RESULTATIVE – it shows result. This is also true of the perfect (“I have broken my leg” – the present result is now I have a broken leg) and the past participle used as an adjective – “I have a broken leg”.

I repeat here – the passive is a context-based reading of the stative adjective construction, where the adjective is a result-focusing adjective derived from a verb:

“He breaks the window” leads to “The window is broken” – “He has broken the window” – “It is a broken window”.

It is not only past participles that have this role – any adjective that shows a state that is the result of an action can be read in context as “passive”:

He is tired (“tired” is the result of doing something that is tiring)
He is bored (“bored” is the result of doing something that is boring)
He is interested (“interested” is the result of doing something that is interesting)
He is broke (“broke” is the result of having spent or lost all one’s money)
He is weary (“weary” is the result of doing something that is wearying/tiring)
He is red (“red” is the result of being too long in the sun, or doing an activity that makes the blood rush to the face, etc.)
He is white (“white” is the result of the blood rushing from the face – from fear or something like that)
___________________________________________________________________________

My doubt
III
I want breakfast. : this is also very personal. The passive is possible, but very strange except in very impersonal contexts (The escaped prisoners are wanted for murder).

Isn’t ‘wanted’ in the second example an adjective rather than the past participle of the verb ‘want’?

Rod
(11)
I want breakfast. : this is also very personal. The passive is possible, but very strange except in very impersonal contexts (The escaped prisoners are wanted for murder). 
Your question: Isn’t ‘wanted’ in the second example an adjective rather than the past participle of the verb ‘want’?

My answer: yes, it is an adjective – a resultative adjective derived from the verb “want”. All past participles are resultative adjectives. Cf. “The escaped prisoners are wanted by the police for murder.”

IV
Are sentences with intransitive verbs called active voice sentences?

I’m not sure if native speakers think along these lines or non-native English teachers or, for that matter, native English teachers, teaching non-native children. But when I look at a concept of language use I automatically imagine how I would present it to my students or explain it to my colleagues and what doubts they could have and how I could clear them. This makes me dig deep but don’t find answers always. I thank my stars and Linkedin for getting to know you and for your readiness to clarify and help.

I may take this liberty whenever I have doubts, and I know you’ll help with a smile.

I’ve attached another word file containing my narration of active and passive voice. Please suggest necessary modifications and improvements in the content and its organisation and presentation.

I’d like to post my letter to you and your response on my blog. I need your permission.

Rod
(12)
Your question: Are sentences with intransitive verbs called active voice sentences?

My answer: yes, in a general sense that is true. However, certain intransitive verbs are not active, but stative (e.g. “I am a teacher”, “She looks hungry”), and many are somewhere between the two (e.g. “I believe in World Peace”, “He is standing at the door”, “He is sleeping” - are “believe”, “stand” and “sleep” states, actions or states of mind?)

English does not make a grammatical distinction between “active” and “stative” (except in certain uses of the “simple” and “continuous”).

In syntactic terms, in English, even passive sentences (like “the window was broken” and “the window got broken”) where the subject and verb are concerned have exactly the same syntax as active/stative sentences:

I am tired.
I sleep
I walk
I eat some chicken.
I am bitten by a mosquito.
I get bitten by a mosquito.
I get a letter.
I get sick.

Rod 
(13) your question “I’d like to post my letter to you and your response on my blog. I need your permission.”

My answer – yes, you have my permission, with pleasure.
Best regards
Rod
___________________________________________________________________________

Part III
The ‘reflections’ are based on the information provided by Rod.

My reflections:
Rod
No amount of thanks would sufficiently express my inner thoughts on your ‘help’. I consider myself lucky.

When you explain it, it sounds so simple, and I feel I’ve known these too but not with the clarity that you express with. I need further clarity.

Some reflections on your replies:
5.
We took a long vacation. We travelled by train or bus. We visited churches, age-old buildings, we sat by the brooks with our feet in the cool water, we cooked our own food, we slept on the lawns, we looked up and delighted at the starry sky. Fun was had by every one of us.

I wouldn’t conclude the paragraph this way as it focusses on ‘we’. I can’t think of ‘fun’ as the topic of run-on sentences in a paragraph so that the use of ‘fun has had by everyone’ can be justified.

3.
I see the same problem in “‘good mornings’ was said by all present and the business started.’” I can’t think of a continuous paragraph where ‘good morning’ as a greeting can be the theme.

7.
I was mulling over the problem of how to respond to a request from my cousin. John entered, saw a worried look and asked ‘what’s eating you?’ I told him. I began to be advised by him. 

How can I justify the passive?

Am I right in saying the passive constructions such as these can only be in single statements and not close a paragraph or come in its middle where their occurrence would be odd rather than natural?

(8)Your question: “All the passivised sentences are syntactically possible. But do people use them?   What contexts occasion these passives?  Or the argument that “English is a topic-focusing language; whatever goes at the beginning of the sentence is normally the topic of the sentence, and the syntax of the sentence adapts to that” is good enough for these passivisations to occur in conversations as acceptable ones? Or does mere possibility of passivisation mean they are naturally occurring sentences?”

Here I was referring to only the foregoing 7 sentences. Your answers—A, B, C, D— if I understand them correctly, have a generalised context. I should perhaps have qualified as ‘are these passivised sentences...’.

11
You said ‘all past participles are resultative adjectives’. Why is ‘adjective’ used? Though they are ‘verbs’ syntactically, they describe the ‘result’ and hence termed so? This means that all past participles in all passive statements adjectives but not in active statements. Am I right?

Rod’s explanation 
My pleasure, as always.

The difference between passive and active is context-based – not sentence or paragraph based. In example 5., because the context is “we” and what we did – and so it is focusing on us personally, then the active is the context. That is why “Fun was had by every one of us“ does not work in that example – the whole context is personal, then suddenly becomes impersonal. The “passive” expresses “impersonalness”.

We took a long vacation. We travelled by train or bus. We visited churches, age-old buildings, we sat by the brooks with our feet in the cool water, we cooked our own food, we slept on the lawns, we looked up and delighted at the starry sky. Fun was had by every one of us.

That is to say, the psychological distinction between active and passive is “personal” and “impersonal” with regard to the action.

Saturday morning in the City Centre was the tenth annual City Fair Day, opened by Mayor Henderson and attended by various local business people and others. The City Fair Day was opened by the Mayor at 9 AM, and then the festivities commenced. An estimated 20,000 people attended the day, and fun was had by all.

This paragraph is a fairly impersonal news report, as the whole context is focusing on the City Fair Day, and not the people attending.

“Good mornings” were said by everyone:

The visit to the Skinflats reserve saw twenty-one of us meet up, on what was a lovely morning. After the good mornings were said and we all had a chat it was time for the short drive into the reserve. Here we were met by Toby Wilson from the R.S.P.B who gave us an introduction to the reserve.
(http://www.rspb.org.uk/groups/forthvalley/reports/299539/)

As for example 7. – you can’t justify that passive, because he context is too personal.

I was mulling over the problem of how to respond to a request from my cousin. John entered, saw a worried look and asked ‘what’s eating you?’ I told him. I began to be advised by him. 

Passives can only be justified in impersonal contexts:

Last year, during the second semester, parents began to be advised to start having their children vaccinated in order to attend the upcoming year due to a statewide order of immunizing all students.

…..

Ankiel, who began to be advised by Boras and his associates after his sophomore year, realized all of his dreams could be fulfilled through baseball.

Your question: In other words, am I right in saying the passive constructions such as these can only be in single statements and not close a paragraph or come in its middle where their occurrence would be odd rather than natural?

Answer: no – passives can be single statements, subordinate statements, starting, middle, end – just as actives can be. It is the “personal” and “impersonal” contextualisation that decides their use.

Your question : You said ‘all past participles are resultative adjectives’. Why is ‘adjective’ used? Though they are ‘verbs’ syntactically, is it because they describe the ‘result’ (they function as adjective)  and are hence termed so? This means that all past participles in allpassive statements are adjectives but not in active statements. Am I right? 

Answer : verbs are first and foremost “finite” (past, present, future, etc.). “go/goes” and “went” are the non-past and past forms of the verb “go”. Verbs also have nominal derivatives; that is to say, nouns and adjectives can be made from verbs, just as verbs can be made from nouns and adjectives (e.g. “black” and “white” > “blacken” and “whiten”; in most cases English simply uses a noun or adjective as a verb : they blackened their faces = they blacked their faces).

Nominal derivatives are “non-finite” of “infinite” forms of the verb; however in syntax and semantics they are nouns and adjectives, NOT verbs. The description of “verb” is not based on syntax, but on the origin of the words.

Run > running – a nominal that refers to the activity of the verb:

He is running. (a noun/adjective – in origin in English “running” in this construction is a noun)
He is a running man. (an adjective)
The running made him tired. (a noun)

Run > run (infinitive/base form) – a nominal that refers to the action/state of the verb

He watched his friend run to the shop (infinitive = a verbal noun)
He wants to run. (infinitive – a noun, which is why the preposition “to” is used; prepositions can’t be used with verbs in English).
The run wore him out. (a noun).

The “past participle” is a nominal that refers to the result of the action:

The window is broken (adjective – in the state that is the result of the activity of breaking)
The broken window must be repaired  (adjective – in the state that is the result of the activity of breaking)
The halt and the broken came to the Lord to be healed (noun – the group of people who are in a state that is the result of breaking)

Best regards
Rod
___________________________________________________________________________

Part IV
Further thoughts have references to Parts I, II and III.

Clarification 1
(i)
11
You said ‘all past participles are resultative adjectives’. Why is ‘adjective’ used? Though they are ‘verbs’ syntactically, they describe the ‘result’ and hence termed so? This means that all past participles in all passive statements are adjectives but not in active statements. Am I right?

Rod’s response
No – past participles are not verbs syntactically – they are adjectives derived from verbs. They act as adjectives in all syntactic constructions:

The window is broken. The window is in a state that is the result of breaking.
The broken window swung in the wind. ditto
The window has broken. The window has obtained (arrived in) a state that is the result of breaking.
The window got broken. The window has been caused to obtain (arrive in) a state that is the result of breaking.

(as I mentioned in point (ii) below)

They do form part of a “verb complex” (a verb phrase); however, this does not mean that they are verbs in their own right. Verb complexes have a verb as the head, and then nominalised forms of verbs (infinitive [base form], ing-form, en-form [past participle])

(ii)
The “past participle” is a nominal that refers to the result of the action:

The window is broken (adjective – in the state that is the result of the activity of breaking)
The broken window must be repaired  (adjective – in the state that is the result of the activity of breaking)
The halt and the broken came to the Lord to be healed (noun – the group of people who are in a state that is the result of breaking)

I doubt if (ii) answered my question about the status of past participle in present or past perfect form as in
      I have done my duty. My duty is in the state that is the result of my doing it.
      They have learnt their lesson. Their lessons are in the state that is the result of learning.
      We have drawn the amount. The amount of money is the state that is the result of the action of withdrawing.
___________________________________________________________________________

Clarification 2
VP 1 has SVD.O. and can be divided into two different sets:
Set 1 – standard transitive sentences.
Everyone knows the answer.
They remembered the event.
He shot the dog.
She murdered her husband.
I bought a novel.

The expressions following the verbs in this set are necessary for completion of meaning. 

Set 2 – these are also standard transitive sentences – syntactically there is nothing strange. However, the first example doesn’t belong here; it belongs in Set 1.

He cut himself. – the only difference this has from standard transitives is that the direct object is reflexive (the action goes back to the subject).
He nodded his head. – this is a standard transitive. It is immaterial if the head moved is his own. He still did a transitive action that (in this case) cause the direct object to move (in a physical sense).
She smiled her thanks. – this is also a standard transitive sentence. She did a transitive action that (in this case) cause the direct object to move (in an abstract sense).

This climate does not suit me. – this is also a standard transitive sentence. The climate does an action that affects the direct object (me).

The expressions following the verbs in this set are necessary for completion of meaning. This is true for all transitive sentences – there is nothing special in this between Sets 1 and 2.

Note, also, that it is not a true statement in all cases. For example, “he nodded” is perfectly correct, because the only thing that can nod in this sense is the head. So, in this case, the direct object is not necessary for completion of meaning.

Intransitive
Set 3 – this set is wrongly stated – it mixes two types of sentences, those with a noun phrase (transitive stative), and those with adjectives (intransitive stative)

Stative intransitive : Sub – stative verb - state
I am angry.
This soup tastes horrible.
He appears foolish.

Stative transitive : Sub – Stative  verb – direct object
She has a lot of property. – this is transitive, NOT intransitive.
He became a thief. – this is transitive, NOT intransitive.
They turned traitors– this is transitive, NOT intransitive.
Of course, the direct object in this type of sentence does not have the same status as the direct objects in Set 1 or Set 2; they are still direct objects, however (e.g. pronouns take the object form: He became me for a day, and I became him for a day).

The expressions following the verbs here are also necessary for meaning completion.   – This statement again is an unnecessary one - ALL sentences of these types have to have to mention the state being referred to, or the noun that is referred to, just as transitive sentences must have their direct object mentioned.

Query one
Set 2 sentences are transitive in syntax while they are intransitive in meaning. Would it not be better for everyone (especially non-native teachers and learners) if they were placed in SVC pattern?  - No, they are transitive in meaning. Their specific type of transitivity is causative transitive (an action or movement of the direct object is caused).

Query two
By the same token, ‘what surprised me most was that they were so cheerful about their loss’ (VP 22 A—SV subject C under intransitive) and ‘you can rely upon that man’ and ‘we agreed upon a plan’ (VP 24 A—SV prep. + prepositional object under intransitive) are not subject-focussed in meaning and hence transitive and so be placed under transitive verb pattern?

‘what surprised me most was that they were so cheerful about their loss’
Are you asking about what surprised me? If so, this is a standard transitive clause. “Me” is the direct object affected by the subjects action. Note that Set 1 and Set 2 are two ends of a continuum; they are not discreet, and what surprised me is towards the middle of the continuum.

‘you can rely upon that man’
‘we agreed upon a plan’
Rely and agree are intransitive verbs. The presence of a preposition in this way ALWAYS means intransitivity is in question. They are both subject-focusing, because “you” and “we” are the topics of the sentences. “Upon that man” and “upon a plan” are prepositional phrases, and are NOT direct objects.

Query three
VP 2 SVO (to-infinitive phrase) and VP2 SVO (to-infinitive phrase) are subject-focussed and hence intransitive
VP 3 SVO + (not + to-infinitive) contains sentences that are subject-focussed and hence intransitive.
He (doesn’t) want(s) to go : intransitive sentence (“to go” is a prepositional phrase, not a direct object). – the fact of positivity or negativity doesn’t change this in any way. It is not necessary to state two rules when one will do.

VP3 SVO +there+ to be+ noun contains sentences that are subject-focussed and hence intransitive.
He (doesn’t) want(s) John to go : transitive sentence : He wants X (X = John is to go – which is intransitive)

VP4 SVO (to be) + complement contains subject-focussed sentences such as
They have proved themselves (to be) worthy of promotion
He declared himself to be a member of the R.C. Church
I judged him to be fifty
We believe it to have been a mistake
These are all transitive – but of two types
They have proved X (X = they are [to be considered] worthy of promotion)
He declared X (he is [to be considered] a member of the R.C. Church)
I judged X (he is [to be considered] fifty)
We believe X (it [to have been considered] a mistake)

that are subject-focussed and hence intransitive, and the list goes on.
Both transitive and intransitive sentences can be subject-focusing. This is not a way to diagnose transitivity or intransitivity. It is the presence of a direct object or the lack of one that shows if the clause is transitive or not.

Overall query
Wouldn’t it better to re-do the verb patterns based on meaning?
Of course – that goes almost without saying.

Where transitivity and intransitivity is concerned, the first thing is the presence or absence of a direct object.

THEN – there are the different types of action, such as simple transitives, reflexive transitives, state-attainment transitives, causative transitives, simple intransitives, stative transitives, reflexive intransitives, and so on.

These are based on meaning, exactly so.

Clarification 3
Voice is the form of a verb that shows whether the subject of the sentence performs the action (the active voice) or is affected by it (the passive voice).  Advanced Learner’s

I am not surprised how many grammars don’t mention the middle voice, because it is a voice that depends on verb meaning, not on grammar. In English, the middle voice is intransitive active in syntax, even though it is passive in meaning. That is why it is called “middle” – because it is between the two.

The way I see it:
According to this, your examples
     1) ‘The chicken was roasting in the oven’ [middle voice (ergative)] is a passive voice 
           sentence though it has an active voice sentence structure.
In the middle voice, the underlying object is the surface active subject. As it is subject-focusing in syntactic terms, it is NOT passive.

and
     2) ‘They are tiger huntingis object-focussed and hence passive sentence though
          structurally an active sentence.
No – it isn’t passive. It is what is called in descriptive grammar “anti-passive”. It is subject focusing, and so can NOT be passive.

Query:
Doesn’t this mean that we should say active and passive sentences rather than active and passive voice sentences?
Many people do – it is not necessary to say “voice” – though this term helps make it clear that we are talking about something that is not tense, aspect or mood. Transitivity and intransitivity are also voices, strictly speaking.
___________________________________________________________________________ 

Clarification 4
Quirk et al:
p.159
Voice is a grammatical category which makes it possible to view the action of a sentence in either of two ways without change in the facts reported.
Quirk should have made clear that this only refers to transitive sentences.

The butler murdered the detective.    The detective was murdered by the butler.

p.160
John admired Mary.                             Mary was admired by John.

active subject (NP 1) + active verb phrase + active object (NP2)
passive subject (NP2 + passive verb phrase + [agent®by NP1¬(optional)]

note: [b] We distinguish terminologically the agent, as defined above (and in grammatical tradition), from the agentive, which is a semantic role (cf 10.19) often assumed by the subject of active sentence or by the agent of a passive sentence (cf 9.50)

p. 741 (10.19)
The most typical semantic role of a subject in a clause that has a direct object is that of the AGENTIVE participant: that is, the animate being instigating or causing the happening denoted by the verb:
Margaret is mowing the grass.

Query:
If, in the example above, ‘Margaret’ is an agentive participant, aren’t ‘The butler’ and ‘John’   ‘agentive’, too? Why do Quirk et al call these ‘agents’? What semantic role is there in ‘Margaret is mowing the grass’ that isn’t found in ‘The butler murdered the detective’ and ‘John admired Mary’? In other words, what distinctions do Query et al bring about between ‘agent’ and ‘agentive participant’?

The subjects of all simple, causative and other transitives are always agentive, yes. There is no difference between agent and agentive participant – they are just different ways of saying the same thing.

Quirk et al:
The most typical role of the direct object is that of the AFFECTED participant: a participant (animate or inanimate) which does not cause the happening denoted by the verb, but is directly or indirectly involved in some other way:  (I printed ‘not’ in bold for my purpose)
Many MPs criticized the Prime Minister.
James sold his digital watch yesterday.

Query:
How do Quirk et al say ‘the Prime Minister’ doesn’t cause the happening which is ‘criticized’ because some action, statement, behaviour of the PM must have caused the MPs to cricitize.

Because in the specific act of criticizing, the Prime Minister is not actually assumed to be doing anything. He is sitting there (perhaps) “passively” receiving the criticism as an “object”. You have to keep a clear distinction between contextual knowledge (what we know or assume about the background context) and the information given in the sentence itself.
___________________________________________________________________________

Clarification 5:
Quirk et at
p.700 (9.50)
Someone had broken the window with a stone. [1] - instrumental
A stone had broken the window. [1b] - agentive
The window had been broken with a stone - instrumental by someone - agentive. [1c]
The window had been broken with a stone. [1d] - instrumental
The window had been broken by a stone. [1e] - agentive.

Quirk et al term ‘by a stone’ as instrument. And they point out a meaning difference: 1d excludes human agency and 1e excludes natural agency as clearly seen in
My car had been damaged {by the branch of a tree.
                                           {with the branch of a tree.

Both agentive and instrument may be said to denote the semantic role of AGENCY.
Here Quirk et al made an analytical error. A stone can be dislodged by someone walking or an earth tremor, can bound down a hill and break a window through its own doing. With shows instrument (the thing WITH which the subject does an action), while BY shows AGENT (the thing that was BY the action and therefore did the action itself).

Query:
1. Quirk et al term ‘by someone’ as agentive, which they define as ‘the initiating cause and
    typically animate, usually personal’. But isn’t it the agent? Agent refers to the things(person as a noun, agentive is the adjective.

2. Presence of 1 and 1c as examples surprised me; do natives convey the breakage this way?
I am surprised that you should be surprised. They are perfectly normal sentences. IN other words, No one would look at you with a questioning look if you made this statement in a police station in London or Washington?

The window had been broken this is different – it doesn’t say how the window got broken; it simply makes a statement of its resulting state through breaking.

In which case the explanation I made in my post on active and passive sentences (the one
I’d sent to you in a separate attachment) will be wrong and I’ll have to change it. Possibly – I haven’t seen it yet.

Continuation

The following refers to my question in (ii) under clarification 1
1. If I were to parse ‘have done’ in ‘I have done my duty; would it be:
               helping verb + past participle of ‘do’
or
               helping verb + nominal?

Assuming the analysis that the past participle is a verbal adjective (hence a nominal), then:

verb + resultative adjective

This analysis assumes that in the English sentence there is only one verb, and that auxiliary verbs and modal verbs are full verbs.

2. Both transitive and intransitive sentences can be subject-focusing. This is not a way to diagnose transitivity or intransitivity. It is the presence of a direct object or the lack of one that shows if the clause is transitive or not.

It then appears that ONLY the presence or absence of a direct object will decide whether a sentence is transitive or intransitive.

That is right.

(i) What words or expressions can be called ‘direct objects’?  Anything that can go in the direct object slot (nouns, pronouns, clauses)

He saw [John go into the store] – “John go into the store” is the direct object in this sentence.

(ii) Is there a difference between ‘direct object’ and ‘object’?
Verbs and prepositions both have objects. The Direct Object is the transitive object of a verb; the indirect object is a nominal that has a dative case function.

 (please see ‘4.a and 4.b below.)

    She murdered her husband.   (set 1)
    He cut himself.                      (set 2)
    She has a lot of property.      (set 3)
With reference to set 3, you said: Of course, the direct object in this type of sentence does not have the same status as the direct objects in Set 1 or Set 2; they are still direct objects,...

(ii) If there are three kinds of direct objects, how does the definition of ‘direct object’ provide
      for these distinctions? 
It is a blanket term – “her husband” is a direct object, “himself” is a reflexive direct object, and “a lot of property” is a direct object; there is no syntactic distinction between set 1 and set 3, while set 2 is only different in being reflexive. The distinction between set 1 and 3 is semantic; they are really part of the same category.

3.
If  ‘surprised’ in ‘what surprised me most was that they were so cheerful about their loss’ is a transitive verb, why is it found in VP 22 A—SV subject C under ‘intransitive verb list’ in  Hornby?

Because Hornsby made a mistake. He assumed that the underlying clause is “I was surprised by what ….” – and that this is stative intransitive (which it is); without realising that we are also talking about a passive, and that the active equivalent is “X surprised me” – X being what surprised me.

4. a. ‘you can rely upon that man’
        ‘we agreed upon a plan’
        Rely and agree are intransitive verbs. ... “Upon that man” and “upon a plan” are
        prepositional phrases, and are NOT direct objects.

But then they can be put in the passive:
  That man can be relied upon.
  A plan was agreed upon.
How are they then intransitive?

That is a characteristic of prepositional phrases as well – prepositional phrases also have verb-like characteristics. It doesn’t mean that the VERB is transitive. Or – in other words – certain types of intransitive verbs can also appear in passive-like sentences – and certain types of transitive verbs CAN’T appear in passive sentences (e.g. they set up house together – this sentence cannot be made passive).

  b. Hornby Verb Patterns:
      VP 15 (transitive) and VP 24B (intransitive) have the same word order.
      VP 15
      The tribunal has to decide (the question) who the land belongs to.
      (the question) who the land belongs to has to be decided.
  
      The captain decides who shall play in the team.
      Who shall play in the team is decided by the captain.

      VP 24B
      (This table illustrates the use of verbs in this pattern when the object of the preposition is
        an infinitive phrase ..., underlining is mine) Here Hornby uses the word ‘object’ and yet
      puts ‘decide’ under intransitive.
     
      Have you decided (upon) where you will spend the holidays?
      Has where you will spend the night been decided (upon)?

      Has she decided (upon) where to put the piano?
      Has where to put the piano been decided (upon)?

How is ‘decided’ intransitive when it’s possible to put it in the passive?

OR
What’s the distinction between how ‘decided’ is transitive under VP 15 and intransitive under VP 24B?

Decide’ has two constructions, and it is important not to confuse them. One is similar to “agree” and “depend” in syntax, and follows that syntax:

“agreement/dependency” syntax : “on” refers us in a total way to the specific choice. A specific decision has been made:

He decided on coffee.
He decided on where to go for holidays.

The transitive use of “decide” links it more to “think”, and is less specific:

He decided coffee. (very similar to “he though “coffee” – the understanding being that the concept or idea of coffee came into his mind).

He decided where to go for holidays. (he made a choice out of a variety of choices).
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Part V
I’d written a section on Active and Passive voice in my grammar book: A Handy Book on English Grammar. I’d requested Rod to comment on the thoughts I’d expressed.

My request
I
Please take a look at the attachment entitled Active and Passive Voice’ and let me have your opinion.

In the document “Active and Passive Voice” everything looks good except two.
The one suggestion is this :

Rod’s response
1.3 Passive voice—Basic
We form sentences in two ways:
            • in ‘active’ voice where we give importance to the ‘actor’
            • in ‘passive’ voice where we give importance to the ‘action’ ‘patient’ [the object of the action, which is the subject of the sentence].

There are two other constructions which focuses on the action:

1) middle voice (or ergative)
“The chicken was roasting in the oven.” “roast” here is the action that the chicken is undergoing.

2) object-incorporation
“They went out tiger hunting.”

In both of these cases, the action is to the fore. The “active” is actor focusing, the passive is “patient” focusing, while the middle voice and the “object-incorporated” structures focus on the action that is happening either to the subject (middle voice is similar to the passive, as the subject is the patient of the action), or the action the actor is doing to an undefined patient. The difference between the passive and the middle voices is that the passive focuses on the result of the action, while the middle voice focuses on the action as it happens.

The chicken is roasted : the result of roasting.
The chicken roasts : undergoes the action of roasting

The difference between the active and the incorporated subject construction is that this latter can only be continuous; however, more importantly, the object in the object incorporated construction is uncountable – it is a generalization – while the active is more specific.

They are tiger hunting.
They are hunting a tiger/tigers.
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I continued 
Rod’s observations are in the red.

The other item is this:
You’ve already seen in 1.3 through 1 A, 1B, 2A, 2B and the sample of a paragraph why  certain thoughts are expressed better in active voice and certain others, in passive voice.

Let’s see with a few more examples what all this means:
              Active voice                                           Passive voice
1. a. Someone stole my watch.              b. My watch was stolen by someone.
2. a. Thieves stole my watch.                b. My watch was stolen by thieves.
                                                            c. My watch was stolen (this morning).
c. is not the passive of 2.a . It is aligned more to 1.a.
3. a. A colleague stole my watch.           b. My watch was stolen by a colleague.

4. a. India played against Australia         b. India played against Australia
        and Australia defeated India.                and was defeated by Australia.
                                                            c. India played against Australia and was defeated.
5. a. My employer gave me three            b. I was given three advance increments
        advance increments.                             by my employer.
                                                            c. I was given three advance increments.

All these 13 sentences are grammatically, that is structure-wise, correct but all of them are not acceptable. 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b., 3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b are not what native users of English would normally say; they would rather use 2c, 4c, 5c. Of course, 3a would be acceptable while answering an insistent query by an officer.
All of them are correct and native speakers can and do use them in the right context. There is nothing strange about any of them.

2c is the natural expression and the others are unnatural because the focus is on ‘loss’ and also because it is obvious that someone (whoever it may be—thieves or a colleague) has taken the watch, there is no need to mention it. Of course, it’d be natural to say ‘I lost my watch (this morning)’ if the speaker were the focus.
2.c. is only the natural expression when the speaker does not want to say who stole the watch, or just has no idea who did that. They are focusing completely on the watch.

The active is used (in all cases), when the focus shifts to the active/agentive subject.

Again, 4c is the natural expression instead of 4b because it’s clear that the defeat occurred at the hands of Australia. 4a is not natural because there is no need to shift the focus from India to Australia.
4a is natural in the right context (which is an emphasising one). 4c is not really the most natural – it is the most economical. In the right context, 4.b. is used.

And 5c is the natural expression because again it is obvious who gave the increments. Here the focus is on ‘receiving’ rather than on ‘giving’. 
Not the “natural” expression, rather the most econominal. However, it is not always given that it is the employer who gives increments. Sometimes that needs to be made clear.

So use active voice when you have the ‘doer’—the ‘actor’—in mind, and use passive voice when
           i. you know who the doer is or when the doer is not important
                   He was handcuffed and taken to the police station.
              (here there is no need to say ‘by the police’.)   
          ii. you don’t know who the doer is or when the act is more important.
                   He was murdered last night.
         iii. the doer is irrelevant
                   Several soldiers were killed in yesterday’s fight.

I only hope you have a good idea of when to use the passive voice.

You missed out “when you want to hide the actor”

“Several students were injured in yesterdays riots.”
This is a typical police report to the newspapers. Probably it was the police who injured the students, however they want to focus on the rioting students. The students in their report would say: “the police injured several students in the demonstration yesterday”.

The distinction between active and passive is full of meaning.
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II
Thank you. 

By the way I forgot to ask you about your replacement of 'action' with 'patient'. 
Is that how it's addressed?  

I'd like to place this as well on (in) my blog.
krl
                                       
Rod Mitchell
You are welcome.
“patient” is a term that refers to the direct object:

John ate an egg : John is the agent, ate is the transitive verb, an egg is the patient.

The egg was eaten by John. “the egg” is the patient, “was eaten” the stative verb phrase showing result, “by John” the agent (actor).

John walks : John is the actor.

This is a structural/functional way of identifying the roles of the parts of the sentence. The passive focuses on the “patient”, not the action. The “agent” focuses on who causes/does the result on the “patient”; “actor” focuses on who does an action.

Depending on the type of language, then how grammar/syntax handles this can be very difficult. In nominative-accusative languages like English, the agent and the actor are the same in form (“subject”), and the direct object (patient) is different. In absolutive-ergative languages, the actor and the patient are the same in form, and the agent is different. These are the two most common language types in the world, but there are also others, like stative-non stative languages, and others.

The verb itself (in English) does not show any of these things EXCEPT as part of the meaning of the verb. Active, passive, stative, transitive and intransitive are syntactic and semantic properties in English, not verb propereties.

Rod
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III
In your 6.38 email you explained the role of ‘patient’ but didn’t say why you’d used the  word ‘patient’.  Is that the technical word that describes what happens to the object of the active voice sentence? I haven’t seen this expression in grammar books. 
krl

Rod’s response:
I am not surprised you can’t find it in the traditional grammar books; they are based on the Grammar-translation tradition [and are old fashioned and sometimes inaccurate – they often do not keep up to date with more modern research].

“Patient” is a term from theoretical linguistics – other terms are the “target” or “undergoer” or “theme”. It is the participant in a situation upon which an action is carried out. “Direct object” is the grammar-translation term. Some linguists make a distinction between “patient” – and “undergoer” that changes state (e.g. I broke the window – the window changes its state from whole to broken) and “theme”, where the direct object doesn’t change state (e.g. I have a book)

“Patients” can be in passive clauses (the window was broken by me; the window got broken by me), while “themes” can’t (*”A book was had by me” cannot be said).

Underlying patients in sentences like “The fish changed colour” (the fish undergoes the action, not the colour) also often cannot be in passive structures (*“Colour was changed by the fish” cannot be said). However, this depends also on how much control the subject (the underlying patient) has : “I underwent an operation” can become “An operation was undergone by me”, because the implication is that I have a certain amount of control over the process.

Actor, agent and patient are terms for roles (and “instrument”) – the patient is the thing that undergoes the action, the actor does an action, and the agent causes an action to happen to a patient. They are not sentence structure terms. “Subject” (alt. “topic”) and “object” are sentence structure terms. This can be quite complex – terms for roles remain the same regardless of the structural state of the word/phrase. The structural terms remain the same regardless of the role of the words within each part:

John walked to the shop. : - John is the “actor”  and the “subject/topic”
Walking to the shop was done by John. : John is the “actor”, while “Walking to the shop” is the “subject/topic”; it is also the “patient”/”theme” (it is somewhere between these two concepts); “John” is the “agent”, and the “object” of the prepositional phase “by John”.

John painted the chair. : - John is the “agent” and the “subject/topic”; “chair” is “the patient” and the “object”

The chair was painted by John : - “the chair” is the “patient” and the “subject/topic”; “John” is the “agent”, and the “object” of the prepositional phase “by John”.

John underwent an operation : - “John” is the “patient” and the “subject/topic”, “an operation” is an “instrument” and the “direct object”.

An operation was undergone by John. : “John” is the “patient” and the “object” of the prepositional phrase “by John” [and a notional “agent” in having some control over the process], “an operation” is an “instrument” and the “subject/topic”.

The passive focuses on the patient that undergoes an action, which is I structure a subject/topic, NOT on the action (that is a different grammatical category, as I said somewhere else).

Best regards
Rod
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Here is a related piece of information:
In ELT Professionals Around The World, an English teachers community at LinkedIn, Mr Vengatesan Sundararajan had posted for a discussion:
   “What was written in this letter?” How can we change it into active voice?

Mr Rod Mitchell posted this response:
A "discovery" made back in the early 80s (at least) was that there is no direct link between the active and the passive [and, also, that there is strictly speaking no such thing as either in English- English doesn't mark for either active or passive, but rather has these concepts as part of the verb meanings in themselves].

In practical terms, the so-called passive is a stative constuction that shows that the subject (the "topic") is in a state that is the result of an action. As Katerina says, this means that when we are referring to the topic and the resulting state it is in, we use wording that shows that, which often does not include mentioning the doer of the action.

What was written in this letter?

"what" is the topic of the sentence.

This also means that there are "passive" sentences, like this one, that do not have an "active" equivalent. In other words, strictly speaking, we can't change it into any active voice, because, by doing so, we change the whole reason for the sentence. We actually make a completely different sentence that expresses a different set of relationships, because we start focusing on a doer as the topic of the sentence.

The reason why it has no "active" "equivalent" is simple. We want to know what is in the letter, not how it got there.

[This is part of the field "topic grammar" - that English is a topic-focusing language, which holds that traditional "dichotomies" such as active-passive are bvased on the application of Latin-based grammar to English - Latin really does have an activ-passive contrast:

domino "I act as the head/leader/master of the household, etc." (> I dominate)
 
dominor "I act as the led person (etc.)" (> I am dominated, X dominates me)]