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  1. #1
    Mark77 is offline Newbie
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    Word order in a passive sentence

    Hi,

    I need help again.

    The active sentence is:
    The policeman fined him for speeding.

    If for some weird reason I want to change the sentence into a passive one, but still mention the policeman, how do I do it?

    a) He was fined for speeding by the policeman.
    b) He was fined by the policeman for speeding.

    It would make more sense to me if it was the second option, but I'm not sure.

  2. #2
    RonBee's Avatar
    RonBee is offline Moderator
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    Re: Word order in a passive sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark77 View Post
    Hi,

    I need help again.

    The active sentence is:
    The policeman fined him for speeding.

    If for some weird reason I want to change the sentence into a passive one, but still mention the policeman, how do I do it?

    a) He was fined for speeding by the policeman.
    b) He was fined by the policeman for speeding.

    It would make more sense to me if it was the second option, but I'm not sure.
    Both a and b are good.



  3. #3
    BobK's Avatar
    BobK is offline Harmless drudge
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    Re: Word order in a passive sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark77 View Post
    Hi,

    I need help again.

    The active sentence is:
    The policeman fined him for speeding.

    If for some weird reason I want to change the sentence into a passive one, but still mention the policeman, how do I do it?

    a) He was fined for speeding by the policeman.
    b) He was fined by the policeman for speeding.

    It would make more sense to me if it was the second option, but I'm not sure.
    You're right - the 2nd option is clearer, and makes more immediate sense in most contexts. But as RonBee said, they're both fine. You might say the first if you started by saying 'he was fined', and then realized [BK] that your audience required the extra information.

    There's also the problem of misinterpretation. In some cases, you might be thought to be saying he was fined for speeding by the policeman (that is, going past him at speed)*. And in other cases (different words) there's almost infinite scope for humour along the lines of 'Piano wanted by a lady with carved legs'. The passive can get you into lots of trouble if you're not careful. Use it if it's appropriate, but be aware of the pitfalls.

    b

    PS *Coincidentally, my wife was fined for "speeding by" a policeman only yesterday evening - so that interpretation is not as unlikely or as facetious as some might think. In speech, the intonation would make it clear if you were using the verb 'speed by', but in writing the possibility of ambiguity is more likely.
    Last edited by BobK; 26-May-2008 at 10:56. Reason: Added PS; then fixed typo

  4. #4
    Mark77 is offline Newbie
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    Re: Word order in a passive sentence

    Wow, I never thought about the other possible meaning of 'speeding by the policeman'.

    Thanks for the replies. I will use the structuring of b when I'm unsure about similar sentences.

  5. #5
    BobK's Avatar
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    Re: Word order in a passive sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark77 View Post
    Wow, I never thought about the other possible meaning of 'speeding by the policeman'.

    Thanks for the replies. I will use the structuring of b when I'm unsure about similar sentences.
    The example in my PS was a bit naughty - what she was fined for was speeding, and she didn't actually 'speed by him' (she saw him in time to brake in a rather guilty-looking way!) But the fact remains that - if you put a preposition next to a verb that it's not related to - there's often a risk of ambiguity (perhaps involving a phrasal verb that you haven't met before - a serious risk for many students! ).

    b

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