Poll: Does English have a Middle Voice?

Does English have a Middle Voice?

What's a 'Middle Voice'?

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This Poll:

  • Votes: 684
  • Comments: 7
  • Added: May 2004



I can't think of any verbs that mean "I ___ myself."

Robertson Frizero Barros

We can say that the English middle voice occurs when you have a verb which is syntatically active but semantically passive.

e.g.: "The broth cooked very fast."
=>In this example, the verb TO COOK is in the active voice, but semantically we understand that the noun BROTH "suffers" the action TO COOK.

Dale Mings

I feel that verbs such as rise and lie should be considered middle voice instead of only explaining them as intransitive. My reason for this is that the current explanation doesn't help people know when they should be used. Hence the total confusion in normal speech. Once students understand that lie and rise are reflexive or middle voice, they understand why they are only used in certain situations.


'Middle voice' should form grammatically as in ancient Greek, for example. Since there is not any grammatical way to construct the middle voice, there is no middle voice in English at all.


English often uses the same form for diffferent purposes. EG: Work is a good thing-work is a noun. I work-work is a verb. This disinterest in form makes English a bad language for communication say some, but others like lawyers and politicinas use the incoherence of form to their advantage. The middle voice in English must be discerned by effect, and not by form. EG: The glass shattered; The crowd gathered. These verbs are in the middle voice by effect and not by form. The lack of attention to form is a choice of language speakers, but language writers must be aware of the different forms because they accomplish diferent purposes. Use them in writing like lawyers and politicians do in speaking.


The English language has Middle Merbs but not middle voice. According to Lee, Middle Verbs are the Verbs which dominate an Object ( but not Direct Object) and they can not be Passivised. For instance, {have} is a Middle Verb because the Object that it dominates can not be in the Subject position when passivised: {John has a book} can not be passivised.
It is a mistake to confuse Copula with Middle Verbs. In the example {the car starts easily} like {the food tastes good}, {starts} and {tastes} are Copula in which both {car, food} are Subject and { easily, good} are Subject Complement. In the example, {the broth cooks very fast}, {cook} is NOT a Middle Verb, it is a Copula because it correferntialates the Subject Complent {very fast}, to the Subject {the broth}.


English does not have a Middle Form as Greek does (and as Latin has in many/most deponent verbs); but ENglish does have a variety of ways to express the idea of the Middle--e.g. We say that "a ship is becalmed"--ie, the ship is being acted on by the wind--or rather by the lack of wind. One can argue that the verb in such cases is simply the verb to be with a predicate adjective, but that misses the point that there is an action that is being considered.
""The teacher was bemused by the student's attitude." Here the teacher seems to be the object of the student's attitude, but, in fact, the bemusing, as reflected in the student's words or behavior is a distant cause of what's happening in the teacher's head. The teacher is having trouble in his own mind comprehending what/why/how the student is behaving.

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