Complex personal passive constructions

dudko

Senior Member
Slovak
Hello friends,

I would like to ask you whether or not it is grammatically correct to convert the following sentences into these personal passive constructions.

1. It is thought that she will be attending the meeting on Tuesday. ---- She is thought to be attending the meeting on Tuesday.
2. It is known that she is going to attend the meeting on Tuesday. ----She is known to be going to attend the meeting on Tuesday.
3. It was said that the burglars always chose the least protected properties. ---The burglars were said to chose the least protected properties.
4. It was understood that the Queen was to make a visit to her residence the next week. --The Queen was understood to be to make a visit to her residence the next week.
5. It is reported the government will have resigned by August 2017. ---The government is reported to have resigned by August 2017.

Currently I am dealing with the Passive and have been trying to come to grips with the above stated constructions (that I have made up) but have been able to find any references to them anywhwere. The grammar books I have consulted with regard to the issue usually present only sentences in the present simple/continuous, the future simple, the present perfect simple/continuous, the past simple/continuous and past perfect simple/continuous. No other tenses. So I was wondering if other tenses or grammatical constructions are possible. I would be very grateful to you for any help with it. Thank you. :)
 
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Without going through them all in detail, I would simply say that you have understood the general principle, and numbers 1-3 are perfect*. However, there are problems with the last two.

    4. The phrase "to be to make..." is stylistically clumsy. "to be making..." would work.
    5. Here, your logic goes astray. You can't report something in the future! I think the word you need here is predict or expect and the tense is the present: The government is predicted/expected to resign by August 2017.

    _________________________________________

    *Sorry - late edit:
    in 3, you need The burglars were said to choose...
     
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    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    I suppose it's possible in princlple, but you'll end up with some unnatural, or at least convoluted, sentences which no one would say or even write.
    1 and 2 are possible, although the two infinitives in ...to be going to attend... sound clumsy.
    In 3, you'd need to insert the always in The burglars were said... If you want the sentence to sound natural, it would be to always choose. Then someone might object to the split infinitive. You could say ...properties each time.
    It should be The Queen was understood to be making...
    In 5, the sentences don't mean the same thing. The first one refers to the future. The second one refers to the past and doesn't sound quite natural to me anyway.

    These constructions with It is thought..., She is thought... etc. are formal anyway. Perhaps it would be safer, if only from a stylistic point of view, to avoid complicated tenses like the conditional perfect and future perfect.
    Cross-posted.
     
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    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I don't know if there is a simple answer to this. Bear in mind the general rule of English "never use the passive if you can do without it"!

    Taking each in turn

    1. It is thought that she will be attending the meeting on Tuesday. ---- She is thought to be attending the meeting on Tuesday.
    I would not say this - but if you are adament on testing the passive I think you need to re-phrase, for example She it thought to be planning to attend the meeting .. For me the two levels of supposition need to be split up. She might be going and people have an opinion about whether she is going or not.

    2. It is known that she is going to attend the meeting on Tuesday. ----She is known to be going to attend the meeting on Tuesday.
    This works OK because there is certainty about her plans.


    3. It was said that the burglars always chose the least protected properties. ---The burglars were said to chose the least protected properties.
    This looks OK


    4. It was understood that the Queen was to make a visit to her residence the next week. --The Queen was understood to be to make a visit to her residence the next week.
    No - similar to example one, you have two levels of suppostition, though you seem to have gone part way to this, you are not quite right - "the Queen was understood to be making etc.


    5. It is reported the government will have resigned by August 2017. ---The government is reported to have resigned by August 2017.
    This is just ridiculous, too many verbal twists to give your reader any chance of following it. But if you must - The government is reported to be planning to resign by the end of Aug 2017.
    ;)
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    the general rule of English "never use the passive if you can do without it"!

    I've heard of teachers quoting such "rules" before, and I think that it might be useful advice sometimes in a classroom situation. As a general rule I think it's preposterous.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    I've heard of teachers quoting such "rules" before, and I think that it might be useful advice sometimes in a classroom situation. As a general rule I think it's preposterous.

    It comes from George Orwell's essay on Plain English, and I think it is pretty good advice:
    George Orwell: Politics and the English Language


    What he actually says is never use the passive when you can use the active. After reading endless essays by students who adopted the passive in some sort of search for an "academic" tone I grew to agree with him.

    The passive voice is useful for hiding agency if that is what you want to do - as they do in headlines - but as a reader I find that is another reason to be suspicious of it!
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    :eek: ...and I thought this to be the wrongest of them all. Maybe you mentally 'auto-corrected' this?
    "To chose" is grammatically not possible; it should be "to choose" or "to have chosen", isn't it?
    Yes. Seems like we all glossed the spelling error!
     

    dudko

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    Thank you all who put their effort to elucidate this grammar stuff to me. Now I know what I should try to avoid while dealing with different passive constructions. I am really grateful for the forum like this. Apropos the word "chose" in sentence 3, I made an inadvertent mistake (of course it should be "choose"), but thanks to it I have just learned a new meaning of the word GLOSS. I take it it means "overlooked". Is it right?
     

    aruizduran

    Member
    SPANISH
    Hello, everyone
    I have found and read this thread when looking for info to clarify some doubts about personal passive. I have browsed grammars and seen videos with explanations in which I haven't found what I need.
    What I need to check is the following: we use perfect infinitives in personal constructions (such as He is said to have committed the crime) when the action of the subordinate clause is past and has happened before the action of the main clause, that is , the reporting verb). However, in the case of a sentence such as THEY SAID THAT HE LEARNT EASILY, the personal passive construction would be HE WAS SAID TO LEARN EASILY, not TO HAVE LEARNT, since the action of the subordinate clause has not happened before the one expressed by the reporting verb. I have not found any grammars where this is clearly explained and justified.
    Am I right? Is this correct?
    Thank you very much in advance.
     

    manfy

    Senior Member
    German - Austria
    I'd say that "they said that he learnt easily" is simply backshifted reported speech. In direct speech they said, "He learns easily."
    And yes, in passive you need the present tense form "He was said to learn easily."
     

    aruizduran

    Member
    SPANISH
    I'd say that "they said that he learnt easily" is simply backshifted reported speech. In direct speech they said, "He learns easily."
    And yes, in passive you need the present tense form "He was said to learn easily."
    >Thanks for your answer.
     
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