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  1. #1
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    Default How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    Hello All

    This is my first thread. I am very happy to see such forums to discuss matters related to English.

    I am facing a big problem with parsing the passive voice sentences. Consider the following:

    The computer has been purchansed by the group.

    Logically:
    the computer = Subject
    has been purchased = Verb

    In case the above is the correct parsing, how can we parse: by the group???

    But, can we look at the sentence from another angle???

    The Computer = Subject
    Has been= Verb
    purchased by the group= complement

    Thank you
    Last edited by Mohammed Abu Risha; 21-Feb-2008 at 21:48. Reason: Correcting the spelling of "complement"

  2. #2
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    How about agent?

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    Default Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    Tdol

    Thank you for your answer. An agent is a semantic description not a syntactic one.

    From a syntactic point of view, any English sentence, whatever long it may be, can be divided to the following categories:

    Subject
    Verb
    Subject Complement
    Object Complement
    Adverbial


    A professor once told me that the "by..."clause is an adverbial. But I am not convinced at all! As you have correctly noted, it is an agent (thematically) so how can it be an adverbial?

    For this reason I suggested that the passive sentence is simply a construction where we have a Subject connected to the Predicate with a linking verb (be).
    Last edited by Mohammed Abu Risha; 21-Feb-2008 at 21:51. Reason: Correcting the spelling of "complement"

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    whitemoon is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    How about predicate?
    The computer has been purchased by the group.
    the computer = subject
    has been purchased by the group = predicate
    Passive voice is a kind of sentence patterns we use to emphasize the object, on the other hand, a sentence we have changed active voice to passive voice. I think we can't parse it because it has the original sentence:"The group has purchased the computer".

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    Default Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    Whitemoon

    In fact as I explained above, a sentence, syntactically, can be divided into:

    Subject
    and
    Verb

    and/or Object, Complement, Adverbial

    A predicate is not a function and therefore cannot be used.

    There is still another surprising point :) According to syntax, there is no one to one correspondence between the passive and the active. In other words, we cannot say at all that the active is the origin of the passive!
    Last edited by Mohammed Abu Risha; 21-Feb-2008 at 21:52. Reason: Correcting the spelling of "complement"

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    Default Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mohammed Abu Risha View Post
    Whitemoon

    In fact as I explained above, a sentence, syntactically, can be divided into:

    Subject
    and
    Verb

    and/or Object, Compliment, Adverbial

    A predicate is not a function (Why? Cose of syntactically? Actually I don't know the meaning of syntactically.) and therefore cannot be used.

    There is still another surprising point :) According to syntax, there is no one to one correspondence between the passive and the active. In other words, we cannot say at all that the active is the origin of the passive!(Maybe!)
    Have a good time!
    WM

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    susiedqq is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    A professor once told me that the "by..."clause is an adverbial. But I am not convinced at all! As you have correctly noted, it is an agent (thematically) so how can it be an adverbial?

    HOW was the computer purchased? By credit card? by the group?

    Adverbs answer "how"

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    Default Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    [quote=Mohammed Abu Risha;254916]Tdol


    From a syntactic point of view, any English sentence, whatever long it may be, can be divided to the following categories:

    Subject
    Verb
    Subject Compliment
    Object Compliment
    Adverbial



    Hi,
    Didn't your teacher divide these categories any further into different kinds of subjects, verbs, objects, complEments and adverbials? What did he do with sentences such as 'We are having our house redecorated'?.

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    Buddhaheart is offline Member
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    Default Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    ‘By the group’ is a prepositional phrase with the substantive ‘group’ functioning as the object of the preposition 'by' and direct object of the sentence. It may also be considered as an adverbial modifier of the verb phrase ‘has been purchased’.

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    Default Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Wuisi View Post
    Hi,
    Didn't your teacher divide these categories any further into different kinds of subjects, verbs, objects, complEments and adverbials? What did he do with sentences such as 'We are having our house redecorated'?.
    We are having our house decorated.

    We= Subject
    are having = Verb
    our house = Object
    decorated = Object Complement

    The reference adopted for our syntax courses was:

    A Comprehensive Grammar of English

    by Quirk et al.

    The authors of that book did mention all possible consturcitons of sentences (as far as obligatory constituents are concerned) and they pointed out that a sentence can have up to the following categories:

    Subject, Verb, Direct Object, Indirect Object, Subject Complement, Object Complement, and Adverbial.

    Now back to our passive voiced sentence:

    The computer has been purchased by a group.

    The above sentence must be and can only be parsed in terms of the categories given above in bold.

    My point, which I not at all sure of, is from a semantic point of view, we understand that:

    We have a something: (A computer)
    and something happened to this 'something': (has been purchased)

    So can we say that:

    has been= Verb (The perfect form of the verb to be)
    purchased= Subject Complement
    ????

    Another example that might be clearer:

    The table is broken.

    Here we are describing a state of the table. Since "The table" is the subject of the sentence, I can see that "broken" describes what state the table is in. Therefore, for me, it is logical to claim that "is" is a copula or a linking verb and "broken" is a subject complement.

    I will tru to check Quirk et al and see if it says anything about it.
    Last edited by Mohammed Abu Risha; 21-Feb-2008 at 21:53. Reason: Correcting the spelling of "complement"

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