The hawk was perched upon the treetop

jesusguime

Banned
Chinese
The hawk was perched upon the treetop looking for prey.


Hi,
Is "was" in the above optional? If not, why is it the passive voice? Thanks.
 
  • panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    It is optional in the sense that the sentence is grammatical without was.
    The hawk perched upon the treetop looking for prey.

    The original sentence is not passive - it is not suggesting that someone else perched the hawk.
    It is using perched as an adjective (I think).
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Just to expand a little:

    The hawk perched (simple past) upon the treetop - it's the next thing the hawk did.

    The hawk was perched upon the treetop - the hawk was sitting, perched, upon the treetop.

    Keep asking if it's not clear, Jesusguime.

    I must go off and take some photos now of hawks perched on treetops. I'm not joking.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The original sentence is not passive
    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, perched is in the passive in this sort of construction:
    perch (verb 1, meaning 5): transitive (in passive) To be settled on a perch; to be standing or seated in any elevated or somewhat precarious place.

    The peculiar thing about perch is that when it is used in the active voice it is almost always intransitive. Actually, come to think of it, this is not all that peculiar: the same goes for the common but disapproved structures He was stood on the stairs and He was sat on a bench.
     
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    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, perched is in the passive in this sort of construction:
    perch (verb 1, meaning 5): transitive (in passive) To be settled on a perch; to be standing or seated in any elevated or somewhat precarious place. [...]
    Aha!
    OEDs at dawn, then - it must be a duel to the death :)

    I think this is a matter of interpretation. According to MY OED :)
    perched, adjective:
    Set or seated on a perch; positioned in an elevated or precarious place.


    My OED also contains the entry that teddy listed :)

    Is there any way to distinguish between a transitive passive perched and a participle adjective perched?
    I don't know, and I don't think it matters a great deal.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If it's a passive, isn't it then something which has been done to the hawk. You have a hawk and you have perched it on the tree. Wouldn't you be more likely then to say the hawk has been perched on the tree? But this isn't what we mean here; it's the hawk which perches on the tree, and this makes it close to Teddy's case of seated, or, less current, and, to my ear less acceptable, stood.

    What do your OED's say about seated, or sat, or stood?
     
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    redgiant

    Senior Member
    Cantonese, Hong Kong
    Just to expand a little:

    The hawk perched (simple past) upon the treetop - it's the next thing the hawk did.

    The hawk was perched upon the treetop - the hawk was sitting, perched, upon the treetop.
    Hi, Thomas
    I don't understand the difference.
    In "the hawk perched upon the treetop", You mean "upon the treetop" is an action, and "perched" is another action?
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    No, Redgiant, upon the treetop is where the hawk is perched. One can perch a hawk upon a treetop, but in practice the hawk would have to be stuffed and you'd need a long ladder.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Aha!OEDs at dawn, then - it must be a duel to the death
    I hadn't spotted that the OED seems to be sitting on the fence as to whether The hawk was perched upon the treetop is a passive verb or not.

    I accept the point that
    1. The hawk was perched upon the treetop
    is not exactly analagous to
    2. The cake was placed in the oven
    not only because 1. represents a state of affairs and 2. an action, but also because there is an implied subject of the verb perch in 2. and not in 1.

    Maybe, then, 1. is more like Vanessa was resplendent in green velvet.
     

    johndot

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The hawk was perched upon the treetop — without any further information this stand-alone sentence can only mean that the hawk’s position was ‘perched upon the treetop’; that the verb is active is a matter of common sense: after all, who would have been brave or foolhardy enough to perch the bird there?

    By contrast:

    The book was perched on the window-ledge — if you wish to describe the precarious location of the book using the verb to be and a participle adjective.

    The book was perched on the window-ledge — if you wish to describe that the book was passively placed, precariously, on the ledge.

    As each of the identical sentences can be interpreted differently, obviously the specific meaning must be determined by the context. In any event it’s easy to see the difference between passive and active books and birds: the hawk attained the treetop by fluttering wing-power, but no amount of fluttering leaves will transport a book to the window-ledge.
     
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