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  1. rainous's Avatar
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    #1

    has all but washed away

    Season's Greetings to Everyone.

    Here is my question:

    I have always thought that, when using the verb "wash" and if the subject is the recipient of that act, it needs be used in the passive voice as it seems logical to think that something "is" or "gets" washed away by some other agent which performs the act of "washing", but then I came across the following sentence today in a magazine article.

    But a few hours after leaving the theater, the oily film these images leave behind has all but washed away.

    My initial reaction was "Shouldn't it be "been washed?"

    But since the active voice in such contexts seems also possible, as evidenced by finding of the sentence, I would like to hear what our experts have to say about that.
    Last edited by rainous; 22-Dec-2011 at 16:05.

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: has all but washed away

    Quote Originally Posted by rainous View Post
    Season's Greetings to Everyone.

    Here is my question:

    I have always thought that, when using the verb "wash" and if the subject is the recipient of that act, it needs be used in the passive voice as it seems logical to think that something "is" or "gets" washed away by some other agent which performs the act of "washing", but then I came across the following sentence today in a magazine article.

    But a few hours after leaving the theater, the oily film these images leave behind has all but [U]washed[/U ]away.

    My initial reaction was "Shouldn't it be "been washed?"

    But since the active voice in such contexts seems also possible, as evidenced by finding of the sentence, I would like to hear what our experts have to say about that.
    Good question. You've noticed that some verbs can be a bit active and a bit passive. Do a Google search for 'medio-passive'. In some languages, nearly all verbs have a set of endings that marks them out as being 'middle voice'. But in English we just recognize that some verbs - particularly ones that refer to appearance or state - can 'swing both ways' For example, if a person can look quite smart after a good wash, they can be said to 'scrub up well'; if they're photogenic, they can be said to 'take a good photo'.

    Views about which verbs can behave like this differ. For example, I say things like 'Does it show?'; but others would say 'Does it notice?'

    b

  3. rainous's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: has all but washed away

    Thanks for your expertise.

    "swing both ways"... I like that.

  4. BobK's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: has all but washed away

    Quote Originally Posted by rainous View Post
    Thanks for your expertise.

    "swing both ways"... I like that.
    Good, but use it with care. In some contexts it can be understood as having sexual overtones!

    b

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