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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > Weird as it is: Pseudo passive    

Weird as it is: Pseudo passive



Gi2gi
Georgia

Weird as it is: Pseudo passive
 
So, my dear fellow community members,
we have all encountered a term "pseudo passive"  in linguistic literature and various linguists/authors define  it the way they like.
  
 Despite the vagueness that surrounds the topic, I am prone to thinking, however, that the term might refer to the case when a verb which stands in the active voice implies a passive sense:
 
So according to my outlook on this the following sentences should clearly be considered  to be samples of "pseudo" passive :
 
This book sells well (active verb "sells" implies passive ) 
and likewise:
The dress does up from the back.
The child was missing...
 
I am looking for further samples of this very curious phenomenon in the English grammar;
as well as your kind suggestions on the topic and the definition of the term "pseudo passive".
 
Thanks,
Giorgi 

29 Nov 2014      





cunliffe
United Kingdom

Some food critics on TV cookery programmes say that things eat well .  

29 Nov 2014     



yanogator
United States

I disagree with "The child was missing" as an example of this, since it can t be made into a real passive like the others. 

 These apples cook well. 

 My new car handles beautifully. 

My description is that it uses a transitive verb with the intended object in the position of the subject, and an adverb or adverbial phrase after the verb.

 Some languages, such as Spanish, have a similar structure, but using the reflexive form of the verb. 

Bruce

29 Nov 2014     



Gi2gi
Georgia

@cunliffe, nice one, thank you :)
 
------
 
Bruce, yup, and another oddness of this is that some intransitive  verbs with a preposition are  made into passive, and this is also referred to as pseudo passive 
 
Take this one: 
This bed has never been slept in.
 

29 Nov 2014     



yanogator
United States

I can see why, in a very formal interpretation, "This bed has never been slept in" wouldn t be called passive, since "bed" is the object of "in", not of the verb. So, since it s a passive construction, but the subject is not in the official passive usage, some experts would call it pseudo passive. I would call it passive, just to keep things simpler.
 
Bruce

29 Nov 2014     



almaz
United Kingdom

Isn t the pseudo passive another name for a prepositional passive? As in: "this bed has been slept in" or "I don t like being laughed at" where the preposition is stranded (compare with "someone has slept in this bed", "I don t like people laughing at me").
 
There have been quite a few interesting discussions on this issue on a few sites:
 
 
 http://www.arrantpedantry.com/2007/01/02/editing-chicago/ (Jonathan Owen vs a nameless Chicago Manual of Style staffer)
 
 
 
If you re genuinely interested in the passive, Giorgi, you could do a lot worse than read Geoff Pullum s paper, Fear and Loathing of the English Passive (http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~gpullum/passive_loathing.pdf)
 
Alex 

30 Nov 2014     



Gi2gi
Georgia

almaz,
nope, pseudo passive does not always involve a preposition, therefore we cannot conclude that they are the same.
If you d like, I could send you some lovely links/pdf  on the topic, just PM. Have a nice day.

30 Nov 2014     



almaz
United Kingdom

What s this "nope" business? Perhaps I was just being too polite. I should have phrased it differently and said that, further to your observation about "some intransitive verbs with a preposition", this particular pseudo passive is known as the prepositional passive - assuming you were seriously interested in further research. I m aware that there s some lack of consensus as to the precise definition of pseudo passive (and that the term may be used differently in other languages), but if, as your original post suggests ("the child was missing"...), you re unclear about what actually constitutes the passive in English, I strongly urge you to read the Pullum piece I linked to above.

30 Nov 2014     



Gi2gi
Georgia

@almaz,
 
My original post did suggest that I was looking for more examples of sentences where verbs appear in the active voice but clearly imply passive sense, i.e. subject being acted upon. This , together with the "prepositional passive", is often referred to as "pseudo passive".
 
However prepositional passive is not something that I would like to look at in this topic; Therefore the links you kindly provided do not not deal with what I am looking for  so, I daresay, they are somewhat irrelevant. I m grateful for your efforts, though..
Your remark " you re unclear about what actually constitutes the passive in English"is just your (wrong) assumption.
As for the prepositional passive, which is indeed also considered as "pseudo" , there is a very thorough review and analysis in this publication
 
------ 
To return to the case where active verb has a passive sense: 
So far I ve collected
 
This book sells well 
The dress does up from the back.
The child was missing
The soup is cooking
Cotton shirts wash easier.
The door is locked securely.
Marines don t kill easy
 
 
These apples cook well.

My new car handles beautifully.
(thanks to Bruce)
 
 Some food critics on TV cookery programmes say that things eat well .
 
(Thanks to Cunliffe) 
 

1 Dec 2014