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    • Join Date: Oct 2006
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    Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    nb "complement"

    • Join Date: Jan 2008
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    Re: How to parse a sentence in the passive voice?

    I must confess I don't understand the point you are trying to make but, let's play!!!
    According to your own rules we must stick to syntax even though we can turn to semantics here and there, so there we go...
    We are having our house redecorated.
    We (Subject)
    are having (verb)
    our house (object)
    redecorated (object complement, though I think it complements the action not the object, but OK, so far so good)
    However, this sentence means something like,
    'A group of professionals is/are redecorating our house (for us)' and so, we can see
    We (subject?, it means something like 'us'; it is a subject because it happens to be placed before the verb, keeps concord with it and it is in the subjective case)
    are having (verb, active but with a passive meaning)
    our house (object, ok, but it would be very difficult to explain why the object remains the object when the verb has a passive meaning)
    redecorated (object complement?, that would be debatable with 'had' or 'have had' but not with 'are having'. The information conveyed relates to the process not to the noun; passive meaning, again)
    To me this is Quirk at his best!!!. He would admit an implied (elliptical) subject in 'Stop', (for example), but would not admit to the existence of different kinds of subjects just because for him a subject is a syntactical constituent that has nothing to do with meaning. 'We' in this sentence may look like a subject but it is not the real subject, just happens to meet the requirements established by Quirk to define a subject. That's Quirk.

  1. #13

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Anglika View Post
    nb "complement"
    Thank you for the correction .... IN fact I always commit the same mistake :)

  2. #14

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


    I also admit it is confusing.

    We are having the house redecorated.

    Does it really have a passive meaning, given that a group of professionals are doing the job for us?

    Or, is it active in meaning because we are talking about the people (We) who are getting the service?

    Semantically, in other words, it is something like: "We are receiving the service of redecoration of our house"

    At any rate, the question is related to such a clear passive sentence like:

    The computer has been purchased by us.

    Quirk to the best of my knowledge recognises only four functions in a sentence:

    Complement (Subject or Object)

    If the above understanding of Quirk is right, how can we parse the above sentence?

    I have tried to surf the book of Quirk cited earlier but unfortunately could not see how a passive sentence is syntactically analysed.

    More surprisingly, a textbook which is based on Quirk and whose auther asserts that no part of a sentence (on the sentence level) may be parsed except in terms of the above four elements seems to have not parsed any passive sentence! In one instance, he referred to the "by+agent" phrase and to my surprise he said: "This is called an agentive phrase", an explanation that contradicts his assumption that only the above four functions exist on the sentence level.

    You know something. For me it is much easier abd much more understandable to parse "by+phrase" as an agentive phrase. But the point is: how do other grammarians look at the matter?

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

    Hello everybody,

    Mohammad,the same problem bothered me too.I've also met the phrase "by+agent" in parsing sentences and I don't find it helpful.The main reason is that I've learned grammar on the basis which Quirk founded and I absolutely agree that introducing other terms,like "by-agent" in this case,does not make things clearer,on the contrary.Speaking from the viewpoint of a learner and not a grammar proffessional,in the sentence type like you've quoted:

    "The computer has been purchased by the group."

    the element "by the group" doesn't sound "adverbially" (it doesn't respond well to the question "how"and would be a better answer to the question "who"),still I wouldn't introduce some new concept in the nomenclature which Quirk established.And I have two reasons for such opinion in this particular case:

    1. First,the term tells about the semantics of the phrase and not about its syntactic function in the sentence.I think that analysis of a sentence require some automation and some sequence of steps,carrying it out strictly step by step,the first step being a syntactic analysis.I consider this first step as a bird's eye view,or a rough sketch of the sentence.That mean the first thing you do is a technical job of identifying sentence parts and,if required,dissecting that parts all the way to the words constituents in that sentence.Then you can analyse further what exactly some part is by its form,what is its semantics etc.In my opinion,implicating semantic terms and elaborations in the syntactic analysis of the sentence structure is a highway to confusion.
    2. Secondly,even if other term was chosen it still means enlarging the structure of five elements which Quirk has given (not four,you've missed "object" as a element of a sentence structure)and it complicates things.Using that logic,the Quirks structure could be enlarged with a lot more elements for every unfitting exception.

    I think that one simple structure as Quirk has established enables an ESL learner to acquire automation similar to native speakers.Knowing logical slots in which words fit makes easier incorporating new vocabulary and gives a basic orientation to an ESL learner i.e a roadmap to things which he should focus on in his learning.An ESL learner should always have in his mind that grammar is a tool and a very basic tool in acquiring any language.It is valuable as much as you can use it effectively.

    As a conclusion,I think that compared with the immensity of other fields which Quirk's conception brilliantly elaborate some questionable issues can be ignored.It would be like not seeing the wood for the trees.In a mass of different approaches and conceptions in the field of english grammar I chose Quirk's grammar as the most convinient and useful in the store.And although I take every opportunity to learn something more and different on grammar,I keep away from mixing its conception and terminology too much with other to avoid confusion.

    P.S In "A Student's Grammar of the English language" ,semantic roles of adverbials are elaborated in chapter 8 and "by+noun" construction is under "process" role of adverbials ,subclass "agency".

    Best regards


  3. #16

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

    Thank you Velimir

    Let us take the following example:

    The chair is broken.

    Do you agree with me that here we are describing a STATE of the chair (that is "broken"? And, since a complement is used to describe a state can we take the risk and say that when a verb is in the passive, we take the auxiliary (is) as a linking verb and the past participle (broken) as a complement?

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

    Hello Mohammed,

    You're welcome,I'm glad if you've found my post useful in any way.
    As to the sentence you've given, I think that how you analyse the sentence is the right way it should be parsed. By uttering quoted sentence the focus is being placed on the state of the chair and not on the action of its breaking. The past participle "broken" is a participial adjective by its form and functionaly it is a subject complement and modifies the noun "chair" .
    If the focus is to be set on the action and we're supposed to convey the breaking of the chair as a new information to someone than we would say :

    The chair has been broken.

    In this case "broken" is the past participle form of the verb "break" and it is part of the verb phrase " has been broken" .

    I understand it like I've put it above,still it would be better to ask a native speaker to get a hundred percent accurate answer.

    Best regards


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