Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 8

Passive Constructions in English and Serbian

Course: The English Verb Contrastive Approach 1

Mentor: Predrag Novakov, PhD

Jovin Kristina
Maksi Katarina
Jovanovi Milica

December, 2012
Novi Sad

Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad Jovin Kristina
Engleski glagolski sistem 1 Maksi Katarina
Dr Predrag Novakov Jovanovi Milica
December 4th, 2012


This paper deals with the passive constructions in English and in Serbian. It is about a wide range of
classifications given by various authors both in English and in Serbian. Furthermore, we pay attention
to comparison of the passive construction and its usage in these two languages.
Passive constructions in English


According to voice, the action of a sentence can be presented in either active or passive way, without
changing the factual meaning. For instance:
1) John struck William.
2) William was struck by John.
The main difference is thought to be in the way semantic roles are aligned with functions in clauses.
The passive construction usually consists of an auxiliary BE (or sometimes GET) followed by the past
participle (usually -ED) of the main verb.


I According to Quirk (Quirk et al. 1985: 167-171), there are :

A) Central (true) passives:

- central or true passives have a direct activepassive correlation (SVOd), e.g.:
3) a. The results hardly justify this conclusion.
b. This conclusion is hardly justified by the results.
- central passives are divided into those with and without expressed agent, e.g.:
4) Coal has been replaced by oil.
5) This difficulty can be avoided in several ways. agentless passive

b) Semi-passives (mixed passives):

-Passives of this type of construction have both verbal and adjectival properties.
-They are verb-like in having active analogies, e.g.:
6) Leonard was interested in physics.
7) Physics interested Leonard.

-However, their adjectival properties include the possibility of:
a) modifying the participle with very, quite, rather, much, more, too, etc.
8) They are too enthusiastic.
b) coordinating the participle with another adjective, e.g.:
9) I feel rather disappointed and sad.
c) adding the negative prefix UN-, e.g.:
10) We were uninterested in mathematics.
d) replacing BE by a lexical copular verb such as feel, seem, appear, remain, e.g.:
11) She seems extremely elated by her success.

Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad Jovin Kristina
Engleski glagolski sistem 1 Maksi Katarina
Dr Predrag Novakov Jovanovi Milica
December 4th, 2012

-Prepositions like about, at, over, to and with introduce the agent phrase because by-phrase is rather
rare with adjectival properties, e.g.:
12) You wont be bothered with me anymore.

c) Pseudo-passives:

-These do not have an active counterpart nor a possibility of agent addition.
-They are called pseudo-passives, since it is chiefly their superficial form of verb + -ED participle that
recommends them for consideration as passives, e.g.:
13) a. The building is already demolished. statal passive
b. Someone has already demolished the building. possible active interpretation

-Participles have adjectival values, i.e. these ed words can be used adjectivally in phrases like the
industrialized world. Also, no performer can be conceived of, e.g.:

14) The modern world is getting more and more industrialized.

II According to Huddleston & Pullum (Huddleston & Pullum, 2002:1430-1432), there are several
more distinctions:
a) Long vs short passives:

a) Long passives include an agent complement (by-phrase), e.g.:
28) Mike Tyson was beaten by Lennox Luis.
b) Short passives do not include an agent complement, i.e. do not have an exact active counterpart. e.g:
29) Maria has been fooled. ? Someone has fooled Maria.
-In Serbian, we have the same construction, e.g.:
30) Miroslav je razbio casu. Casa je razbijena ? (od strane Miroslava).

b) Bare vs expanded passives:

a) Bare passives
-do not contain BE or GET as V
, but have the verb in the past participle form, e.g.:
31) He saw Rihanna bitten by Chris Brown.
-usually have no overt subjects, e.g.:
32) All things considered, we are lucky not to have been sued.
b) Expanded passives
-are actually to be passives, e.g.:
33) The contract was being examined by Mary.
and get passives, e.g.:
34) The room is getting redecorated.

c) First and second passives:

a) First passives are constructions where an Oi is made the S of the passive sentence, e.g.:
35) a. My teacher gave me this book. an active state
b. I was given this book by my teacher. the first passive

b) Second passives are constructions where a Od of an active sentence is made the S of the passive
one, e.g.:
36) a. My teacher gave me this book. active state
b. This book was given to me by my teacher. the second passive

Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad Jovin Kristina
Engleski glagolski sistem 1 Maksi Katarina
Dr Predrag Novakov Jovanovi Milica
December 4th, 2012

In Serbian, this distinction is not possible because an Oi cannot be made the subject of the passive
sentence, e.g.:
37) * Ljubica je dat poklon. Poklon je dat Ljubici.

d) Prepositional passive:

-The object of the preposition can also function as the S of the passive sentence, e.g.:
38) My father approved of my decision. My decision was approved of by my father.

e) Concealed passives:

With a small number of catenative verbs such as need, require, deserve and want, a gerund-participial
may be passive while lacking the usual marking if the passive we refer to this as the concealed
passive construction, e.g:
39) a. This essay needs to be carefully checked by the editor . the ordinary passive
b. This essay needs careful checking by the editor. the concealed passive

III According to Palmer (Palmer, 1989: 77-93), there are:
A) Pseudo- passives:

The pseudo passive is used when:
- there is no corresponding active sentence, e. g.:
40) This article is concerned with phonetics. *The article seems concerned.

- the en form seems to be wholly adjectival and is lexically restricted:
a) in attributive position (in a NP before a N), e.g.:
41) She is a talented young lady.
b) in predicative position after the verbs other than be, seem, become, e.g.:
42) His conclusion seems exaggerated.
c) with intensifiers such as very, rather and comparative/superlative more/most, e.g.:
43) She was rather surprised.
d) coordinated with true adjectives, e.g.:
44) She is beautiful and intelligent.

b) Semi-passives:

are described almost in the same way as in Quirk et al., 1985.

c) Statal passives:

53) They were married at the church. the statal passive
-The en forms that function in this way:
a) are essentially perfect in meaning and refer to a present-resultant state, e.g.:
54) The glass has been broken. The glass is broken.

Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad Jovin Kristina
Engleski glagolski sistem 1 Maksi Katarina
Dr Predrag Novakov Jovanovi Milica
December 4th, 2012

b) occur with already (which normally requires perfect), e.g.:
56) They are already divorced. He has already divorced her.
57) * I pack my bags already.
c) do resemble adjectives to some extent, e.g.:
58) The troops were defeated and miserable. the statal passive
looked defeated.

-The biggest difference between the pseudo-passives and statal passives is that the pseudo-passives are
lexically restricted, i.e. cannot be freely formed from any verb, whereas statal passives can. Any verb
that has a passive may also have a statal passive.

d) Lexical passives

There are several types of active sentences that are both syntactically and semantically like the
passive. They can be divided into:

Case relations

-Many verbs in English can be used in both a transitive and an intransitive way with the same
meaning. These verbs are called ergatives, e.g. ring, break, grow etc.
59) a. The window broke.
b. The window was broken.
Adverbial passive

Many verbs can be used in sentences such as:
60) The meat cuts easily.

These uses of the active in the passive sense are adverbial since they normally occur with adverbs
and indicate how items are cut, sold, washed etc.

IV Thomson & Martinet do not offer a clear division of the passive construction in English.

Passive constructions in Serbian

I According to Mihailo Stevanovis Savremeni srpskohrvatski jezik (Stevanovi, 1979: 699-707),
there is only:
Subjectless passive

- When the action in Serbian is expressed with the passive form of the verb, it is called trpno stanje
(pasiv), e.g.:
61) Uspostavljena je vrsta veza izmeu Kosova i Srbije.

-However, the actions can be expressed with the construction: the active form of the lexical verb + the
reflexive pronoun SE, e.g.:
62) Uspostavila se vrsta veza izmeu Kosova i Srbije.

Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad Jovin Kristina
Engleski glagolski sistem 1 Maksi Katarina
Dr Predrag Novakov Jovanovi Milica
December 4th, 2012

II According to Piper (Piper et al., 2005: 624-626), there are:

A) Zameniki pasiv or SE passive

-Se passive (Mrazovi & Vukadinovi, 1990) or zameniki pasiv (Piper et al., 2005) is formed by
taking the active form of the V
and the reflexive pronoun SE, i.e. the passive voice appears in the
form of trpni pridev or the reflexive verb in Serbian, e.g.:
63) a. Knjiga je brzo rasprodata.
b. Knjiga se brzo rasprodala. zameniki pasiv
c. Oni zidaju kucu. Kuca se zida.
d.Leci je privatni lekar. Ona se leci kod privatnog lekar.

-The agent is usually not expressed while the direct object precedes the indirect object, e.g:
64) Poklon je donet meni ?(od strane tetke).
-But we do use the prepositions:
a) u and na when the agent is an institution, e.g.:
65) Odluka se donosi u najuem rukovodstvu.
b) kod when it is not an institution, e.g.:
66) On se ia kod frizerke Ljilje.

B) Participski pasiv or Participial passive

- The participial passive is made according to this formula:
the active form of the auxiliaries biti, bivati, jesam + the participial form of the lexical verb +
(od (strane) + N (genitive/instrumental))
67) Mi smo pohvaljeni.
Nena je skuvala rucak Rucak je skuvan.
Ljudi su ustedeli novac. Novac je bio ustedjen.
-It is possible to express the agent with od (strane) + genitive construction in the administrative style
(the agent is usually some institution), e.g.:
68) Odluka je doneta od strane kole.
Studenti su pohvaljeni od strane dekana.
-The agent can also be expressed with instrumental construction, e.g.:
69) To je Bogom dano.

c) Adverbial passive

-The adverbial passive is used when the verb which denotes a process temporarily moves the patient
from its usual place, having the following form:
the V
to be + the nominal part of the predicate (PP) + (kod + NP), e.g.:
70) Kola su na popravci kod majstora. Majstor popravlja kola.
71) Bio je na obuci kod najboljih majstora Obucavali su ga najbolji majstori.
- Sometimes, these constructions do not have an active counterpart, which depends on
the sentence construction, e.g.:
71) On je na specijalizaciji kod dr Jovanovia. *Njega specijalizira dr Jovanovi.

d) Other ways of expressing passive morphology on the verb
-Non-finite verbs can be expressed in the 3
person sg in the active with the particle SE, e.g.:
12) Pria se/Reklo bi se da
Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad Jovin Kristina
Engleski glagolski sistem 1 Maksi Katarina
Dr Predrag Novakov Jovanovi Milica
December 4th, 2012

-Verbs denoting the act of speech appear in the 3
person pl if the agent is not known but can be
expressed as ljudi, e.g.:
13) Priaju (ljudi).../Govore (ljudi)

-Weather verbs can be reflexive (e.g. razdanjivati se, smrzavati se) or non-reflexive (e.g.
svitati, otopljavati) and they appear in the 3
person sg, e.g.:
14) Razdanjuje se. / Otopljava.

-The verb trebati requires the infinitival complement with the unknown agent or the construction
DA + the 3
person singular in the present with the particle SE, e.g.:
15) Problem treba reiti/treba da se rei.

The use of passive in English and Serbian

a) To focus on the action when the agent is not important, unknown or obvious, e.g.:
16) The criminal was sentenced to life imprisonment (by the judge).
17) Provalnik je uhvaen na mestu zloina (od strane policije).
b) To focus on the agent (when it carries new information) by placing it at the end of the
sentence, e.g.:
18) The gallery will be opened by the Prince of Wales.
19) Predlog je odobren od strane direktora kole.
c) To focus on the new information, e.g.:
20) A new type of frog has been discovered.
21) Novi mineral je pronaen.
d) To make a statement more impersonal or formal, e.g.:
22) It is generally recognized that smoking is bad for your health.
23) Smatra se da industrijalizacija ima negativan efekat na zdravlje ljudi.

In the end, we have to make a distinction between the English passive and Serbian passive. What
differentiates the English passive from Serbian passive is that when it comes to ditransitive verbs, in
English both Od and Oi can be the subject of the passive sentence, whereas in Serbian only Od can be
the subject, e.g..
49) a. Jovan gave Perica a book. Jovan je dao knjigu Perici.
b. Perica was given a book by Jovan. *Perica je dat knjigu (od strane Jovana).
c. A book was given to Perica by Jovan. Knjiga je data Perici (od strane Jovana).

-It is important to say that in Serbian we create sentences in such a way that the main argument has the
active meaning, not the passive one. For example, when we analyze the sentence such as Kruska je
pojedena, we treat je as an auxiliary and pojedena as trpni glagolski pridev. This explains why
passive is not discussed in certain grammars (Stevanovi, 1979 or Thomson & Martinet, 1986) or
there is not much about it (Piper et al., 2005).

To sum up, it can be said that many grammarians provide various classifications of the passive
constructions, both in English and Serbian. However, there are many overlappings, as well as
ambiguities among them. What the majority agrees on is the most basic distinction presented in this

Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad Jovin Kristina
Engleski glagolski sistem 1 Maksi Katarina
Dr Predrag Novakov Jovanovi Milica
December 4th, 2012


Huddleston, R. & Pullum, G. (2002), The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language,
Cambridge: CUP.

Mrazovi, P. & Z. Vukadinovi (1990), Gramatika srpskohrvatskog jezika za strance,
Sremski Karlovci: Izdavaka knjiarnica Zorana Stojanovia.

Palmer, F. R. (1989), The English Verb, London: Longman.

Piper, P. et al. (2005), Sintaksa savremenoga srpskog jezika, prosta reenica, Beograd:
Institut za srpski jezik SANU/Beogradska knjiga, Novi Sad: Matica srpska.

Quirk, R. et al. (1985), A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, London:

Stevanovi, M. (1979), Savremeni srpskohrvatski jezik II, Beograd: Naucna knjiga.

Thomson, A. J. & Martinet, A. V. (1986), A Practical English Grammar, London: Oxford
University Press.