passive of 'intransitive verb + prepositon'

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Julianus, May 2, 2013.

  1. Julianus

    Julianus Senior Member


    1a. He lives in the house. b. The house is lived in by him.
    2a. Tom laughed at Jerry. b. Jerry was laughed at by Tom.
    3a. We arrived at the hospital. b. The hospital was arrived at by us.
    4a. Tom depends on Jerry. b. Jerry is depended on by Tom.

    The (b) version is the passive of 'intransitive verb + prepositon'. Are (b) version all grammatically correct? If some are correct, some are not, does this just depend on the linguistic habits?

    Thank you always~.
  2. boozer Senior Member

    3b and 4b sound absurd to me.
  3. ZangiefZangado Member

    Portuguese (Brazilian)
    1b and 3b sound absurd to me. But 4b sounds absolutely normal
  4. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'm with boozer (as often happens!:D)

    I have two reactions to your sentences, jullianus.

    First, I'd be more likely to use 1b and 2b without an agent:
    The house is lived in.
    was laughed at.

    Second, I'd be unlikely to use 3b and 4b, even without an agent:
    The hospital was arrived at.:(
    Jerry is depended on.

    I don't think it's really a question of grammaticality: it's more, as you say, a question of "linguistic habit".
  5. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska

    How about: The agreement was arrived at after long talks.?
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Yes, that would be fine, Thomas:thumbsup:.

    I suppose the difference between that and The hospital was arrived at(:() is that we're talking metaphorically - we're not talking about arriving at a physical location.
  7. boozer Senior Member

    As often :D , Loob went into more detail explaining my own feelings about those sentences.

    I could add that I agree this is not about grammaticality. The passive voice is there and most sentences, if not all, can take it and remain grammatical. The problem is that we usually use the passive when the agent is not important or can be inferred, e.g.
    It is believed that the economy is recovering.
    The economy is believed to be recovering.

    In the examples in post 1, however, the agent is important. Or, at least, that is true of most contexts I can think of. Using the passive voice, therefore, remains a purely theoretical grammar exercise.
  8. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    It's really interesting to notice how some verbs change their meaning when they become passive.

    We live in the house = We are the people who occupy the house as our domicile
    The house is lived in = The house has the atmosphere of being home to people; it bears the traces of their daily lives; it feels human, cozy, home-y

    It seems to me that "to live in [a place]" has a very different meaning from "to be lived in [as of a place]." That's why, semantically at least, "The house is lived in by us" doesn't fit.

    A similar thing goes on with "to arrive at" / "to be arrived at," as excellently demonstrated by Thomas. It goes to show that grammatical categories are not abstract and are themselves inflected with semantic meaning.
  9. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that the example of 'lived in' you're giving, Lucas, uses it as an adjective, which indeed has a different meaning. How about the following sentence:
    The house was lived in by Mozart.
    or going away from buildings a little:
    The United States has been lived in by people of many different origins.
  10. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I think that's the point - that certain passive forms are too closely tied to other meanings (maybe a deverbal adjective, like "lived in") for them to work as passives.

    Out of the sentences you give, the Mozart one barely passes my smell test - I would revise it anyway ("this building was home to Mozart from 1756-77"). The one about the US doesn't sound acceptable at all.
  11. Thomas1

    Thomas1 Senior Member

    polszczyzna warszawska
    I've researched into it a little; there are literally thousands of examples in which 'lived in' is used in the passive voice (cf. Google Books). Here are some sentences that I found:

    This house was lived in by Winston Churchill.
    England has been lived in by the people of many different nations." lived in by"&f=false

    The house is sumptuously furnished with antiques, paintings, and objets d'art. It is still lived in by Dr. Dorothy Kingery, sister of the late Jim Williams, a distinguished academician."+li...Hl4QT9gIG4Dw&ved=0CA4Q_AUoAQ&biw=1024&bih=461

    [...] this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all of the Turanian cities and villages lived in by Hindu merchants." lived in by"&f=false

    I wonder whether their acceptability depends on personal preference, type of discourse or something else (unless there's another issue why my sentence about the US doesn't work).
  12. Julianus

    Julianus Senior Member

    5a. I will see off him at the airport. b. He will be seen off at the airport by me.

    Is 5b grammatically possible and correct?
  13. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    It's probably personal preference, and also style - different styles accept more radical passive-voice constructions, which enable the creation of more complex sentences. There are also time and language development reasons. "Lived-in" as an adjective emerges in the late 19th century. In my idiolect, it feels very strongly like an adjective; it might not feel so strongly adjectival for other authors. My point is that, since "lived in" can sound like a deverbal with its own meaning and not like a verbal construction, it's wise to avoid it in the passive voice.

    But notice how the classification of these passive constructions appears particularly vexing for the authors of the grammar book you cite!
  14. Julianus

    Julianus Senior Member

    6a. He lives across the road. b. The road is lived across by him.

    I think 6b is absolutely incorrect. Am I right?
    Last edited: May 3, 2013
  15. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian

    I think you can get away with​ 5b, but I wouldn't recommend it.
  16. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    There seem to be two sorts of verb in the examples:

    Phrasal verbs, which may be transitive or intransitive
    Verbs with a collocated preposition that are not phrasal, which are intransitive.

    To live in is a phrasal verb and transitive = to inhabit
    To laugh at is a phrasal verb and transitive = to ridicule
    To depend [up]on is an intransitive verb + preposition.
    To arrive at is an intransitive verb + preposition.

    Transitive verbs may form a passive; intransitive ones may not.
  17. Julianus

    Julianus Senior Member

    Is 'To live in' really a phrasal verb? I have leared that this is a an intransitive verb + preposition. If so, how about 'live acorss'? is this also a phrase verb?
  18. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I think you mean "live across." I don't think that's a phrasal verb; perhaps you could give a contextualized use of "live across" that you're interested in?
  19. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    I agree; and the other examples in post 1 are also cases of intransitive verb plus preposition.
    I see nothing wrong with the (b) sentences there: they are all examples of correct passive formation.

    Sentence (3b) does sound rather odd. It is not something we would usually say.
    However, that does not make it wrong, simply not very idiomatic. It is still grammatically correct and perfectly clear.

    To express literal arrival using the passive, it is natural to use the simpler 'reach' instead of 'arrive at'.
    The passive of 'reach' is typically used when the object, or target, of the action is being highlighted, or when distinguishing different agents.

    'Base Camp itself presented a challenge. It was only reached by the lead party on the 8th day; it was not reached by the third party till day 17.'
    Last edited: May 4, 2013
  20. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    If we compare "live in" with "live by/from", "live at" "live upon", we see that the phrasal verbs have a single verb as a [very close] synonym and that synonym does not require a preposition.

    Discussed here is the "Passive voice with intransitive verbs." The consensus is that the passive voice cannot be constructed with an intransitive verb, as the object of the active verb becomes the subject and as there is no object, there can be no subject.

    If that guidance is good, it would appear that the only possibility is that some "verb+preposition" are, in fact "phrasal verbs. Phrasal verbs can be transitive, even if the active verb is intransitive.

    "Live in" seems to be phrasal and transitive.
  21. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    Sorry, but I do not agree that is a valid conclusion. I have added a post to that thread in support of the observation by losilmer who referred to Kittredge and Farley to show that intransitive verbs are often used in the passive with prepositions.
    Last edited: May 7, 2013

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