aim at ['aimed at' passive?]

HK ESL learner

Member
Hong Kong Cantonese
I have just listened to the weekly radio address by President Bush. In his address, President Bush said,

' Our efforts are aimed at a clear goal: a free Iraq that can protect its people, support itself economically, and take charge of its own political affairs.'

I would like to know why 'are' and 'aimed at' can be used together. I learned that 'aim at' is a phrasal verb' and 'are' is the main verb of the sentence. Does it mean that it is a 'passive voice' structure? If yes, what does it mean? It seems to me that the sentence conveys the same meaning if it is written 'Our efforts aim at a clear goal...'

Many thanks!
 
  • phynaert

    Senior Member
    France - French
    My dictionary says that "to be aimed at" is OK and used in the context of laws and campaigns.

    Example: "the bill is aimed at the low-paid."
     

    HK ESL learner

    Member
    Hong Kong Cantonese
    My dictionary says that "to be aimed at" is OK and used in the context of laws and campaigns.

    Example: "the bill is aimed at the low-paid."
    Does it mean that the example you gave is a sentence with passive voice structure? 'The bill is aimed (by someone) at the low-paid?

    Many thanks!
     

    jamesjiao

    Senior Member
    New Zealand English and Mandarin Chinese
    Does it mean that the example you gave is a sentence with passive voice structure? 'The bill is aimed (by someone) at the low-paid?

    Many thanks!
    Your original example is in passive voice. Think of it this way: We aim our efforts at a clear goal. In this case, 'aim' takes two complements: 'our efforts' and 'a clear goal' through the use of 'at'. As this is a transitive construction, it is perfectly valid to make the sentence passive by promoting the direct complement and omitting the subject.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't think that "Our efforts are aimed at a clear goal" uses the passive voice. "Our efforts" is the subject. If the sentence used the passive voice, it would be possible to re-order it as a construction in the active voice, using "A clear goal" as the subject - but this is not possible. I therefore think that the "aimed" of the original sentence is an adjective. What we have here is not a phrasal verb, but "are" + adjective ("aimed") + preposition ("at").
     

    jamesjiao

    Senior Member
    New Zealand English and Mandarin Chinese
    I don't think that "Our efforts are aimed at a clear goal" uses the passive voice. "Our efforts" is the subject. If the sentence used the passive voice, it would be possible to re-order it as a construction in the active voice, using "A clear goal" as the subject - but this is not possible. I therefore think that the "aimed" of the original sentence is an adjective. What we have here is not a phrasal verb, but "are" + adjective ("aimed") + preposition ("at").
    I disagree. A clear goal IS NOT the subject in this construction. As I mentioned in my previous post, it's simply one of the complements in the original construction. Subjects are often assumed in passive constructions. In this case, it's 'we'.
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Sorry, james, but I am not convinced.

    "We aim at a clear goal" (active) can be re-written as "A clear goal is aimed at" (passive), but we somehow have to incorporate "our efforts".

    "A clear goal is aimed at by our efforts" is the passive of "Our efforts aim at a clear goal", not of "Our efforts are aimed at a clear goal".
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I don't think that "Our efforts are aimed at a clear goal" uses the passive voice. "Our efforts" is the subject. If the sentence used the passive voice, it would be possible to re-order it as a construction in the active voice, using "A clear goal" as the subject - but this is not possible. I therefore think that the "aimed" of the original sentence is an adjective. What we have here is not a phrasal verb, but "are" + adjective ("aimed") + preposition ("at").
    Índeed. If this were passive voice it would be something like "Our goal was aimed at by our efforts." Quite awkward, but exemplary.
     

    Eigenfunction

    Senior Member
    England - English
    I agree with james that it is the passive voice. However, I would suggest the active form should be
    We aim our efforts at a clear goal.

    and so the passive form loses the 'we'
    our efforts are aimed at a clear goal

    Compare with for example, we throw the ball, -> the ball is thrown.
     

    curious98

    Member
    Spanish, Emglish, French
    "Our efforts are aimed at a clear goal" is equivalent to say "our efforts have in mind a clear goal" or "our efforts have as objective a clear goal" . "To aim at" means "direct towards; mean by, intend by "
     

    zspan

    Member
    English - California
    "Our efforts are aimed at a clear goal" is not passive voice. To be passive voice, we would not know who is doing the aiming. However in this sentence we know the aiming is being done by us, they are "our efforts".
     

    Eigenfunction

    Senior Member
    England - English
    On the contrary, my dear zspan! We assume that we direct our own efforts because they are our efforts, but in fact the sentence tells us no such thing. In theory, anyone could aim our efforts at something, it just sounds weird from a non linguistic point of view.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Our ship is steered to its destination by the captain.
    We do not do the steering, but I've told you who does the steering.

    Our efforts are aimed at a clear goal (by ??).
    We do not know who is doing the aiming.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    "Our efforts are aimed at a clear goal" is not passive voice. To be passive voice, we would not know who is doing the aiming. However in this sentence we know the aiming is being done by us, they are "our efforts".
    This is active voice:

    "Our efforts aim at a clear goal."

    The sentence you are analyzing, above, is in passive voice.
     
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