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Thread: passivization

  1. #1
    chan Guest

    passivization

    Hello teachers,
    ' John is cleaning his teeth.' I know that it cannot be passivized, but I can't explain it. Can you help me?

  2. #2
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    Re: passivization

    Quote Originally Posted by chan
    Hello teachers,
    ' John is cleaning his teeth.' I know that it cannot be passivized, but I can't explain it. Can you help me?
    John is brushing his teeth. (active)
    1. His teeth are being brushed by John. (passive) Not OK

    But,

    John is brushing Pat's teeth. (active)
    2. Pat's teeth are being brushed by John. (passive) OK

    The difference between 1. and 2. has to do with the pronoun 'his'. That is, You can say 'Pat's teeth' but not 'his teeth' because the noun "John" must come before the referent "his". It has to do with reflexivity and the order of the noun and its referent.

    His teeth are being brushed by John. (passive)
    ==> OK if "His" refers to someone other than John.

    His teeth are being brushed by John. (passive)
    ==> Not OK if "His" refers to John.

    All the best,

  3. #3
    RonBee's Avatar
    RonBee is offline Moderator
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    How about:
    • John's teeth are being brushed by John.

    Or:
    • The teeth are being brushed by John.



    Is it "his" in that sentence that makes all the difference?

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    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    I see no need for the passive unless he is brushing someone else's teeth.

  5. #5
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    There's no need for it, but you can do it.

    :)

    Is passivized a word? (I don't think so.)


  6. #6
    chan Guest

    Re: passivization

    Thanks for your help!

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    "John's teeth are being brushed by John" means, there are two Johns, like this:

    John Smith's teeth are being brushed by John Sampson.

    The noun John (Sampson) does not refer back to John (Smith). That is, they are not co-referencial: the two Johns are not one and the same person. The same holds true for the pronoun 'his':

    His teeth are being brushed by him.

    The pronouns 'his' and 'him' are not co-referent.

    As for,

    The teeth are being brushed by John.

    'teeth' belong to the body, so the noun requires a possessive pronoun, either overt (written/spoken) or covert (unsaid/not written). In saying, "The teeth", the listener/reader assumes the teeth belong to something or someone, and given the passive structure, the listener/reader also assumes "the teeth" do not belong to John". We could modify the noun so as to show it refers to John, like this:

    The teeth belonging to John are being brushed by John.
    John's teeth are being brushed by John himself.

    But, they're pretty odd things to say.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Casiopea
    "John's teeth are being brushed by John" means, there are two Johns, like this:

    John Smith's teeth are being brushed by John Sampson.

    The noun John (Sampson) does not refer back to John (Smith). That is, they are not co-referencial: the two Johns are not one and the same person. The same holds true for the pronoun 'his':

    His teeth are being brushed by him.

    The pronouns 'his' and 'him' are not co-referent.

    As for,

    The teeth are being brushed by John.

    'teeth' belong to the body, so the noun requires a possessive pronoun, either overt (written/spoken) or covert (unsaid/not written). In saying, "The teeth", the listener/reader assumes the teeth belong to something or someone, and given the passive structure, the listener/reader also assumes "the teeth" do not belong to John". We could modify the noun so as to show it refers to John, like this:

    The teeth belonging to John are being brushed by John.
    John's teeth are being brushed by John himself.

    But, they're pretty odd things to say.
    Well, I'm a pretty odd dude.

    :wink:

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