the reagents consumed


Senior Member
Ukrainian & Russian
Starting a similar reaction [an acid-alkali reaction] in a large flask, he [our teacher] dropped in a few flakes of platinum foil, small shiny squares like bits of metal confetti. The reaction nearly exploded. It bubbled madly, casting off a furious discharge of vapor and heating the flask until it was too hot to touch. Within seconds it was over, the reagents consumed in far less time than in our test tubes.
(How Good People Make Tough Choices; R. M. Kidder)

Would you be so kind as to tell me whether it is possible to read it in either of the two following ways:

1) the reagents [were] consumed;
2) the reagents consumed [themselves].

  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    I would say not. 'Consume' is not one of those verbs that can be used in an active intransitive way:

    :tick:The water boiled quickly. (The boat sank, the door opened, the food cooked, etc.)
    :cross:The food consumed quickly. ( :cross:ate quickly, etc.)

    So that phrase in your sentence must be a passive clause without a main verb: 'the reagents [having been] consumed . . .'
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