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Reasons for the Frequent Occurrence of the Passive

§ 69. Itis common knowledge that the passive is extensively
used in English. This seems to be due to a number of reasons:

1) In English there are no means of avoiding the indication of
the doer of the action in active constructions.

In other languages we find special active constructions which
make it possible to avoid any mention of the agent. For example,
in Russian there are several grammatical means that serve the

a) the so-called indefinite-personal sentences in which there is
no subject and the predicate is in the third person plural,

e.g. Греков держали как пленников, но при этом обращались с
ними самым почтительным образом и предоставляли им
всевозможные блага.

b) sentences with reflexive verbs,

e.g. Эта картина ценилась выше, чем все другие.

Он знал, что оставался еще один важный вопрос.
Его неожиданное появление объяснялось очень просто.

c) impersonal sentences,

e.g. He слышалось никакого шума.
Все небо обложило тучами.

In French and German the same idea is often expressed in sen-
tences with the indefinite pronoun on (Fr.) and man (Ger.).

e.g. He is much spoken about He issaid to be ill.

in the town.

Man sprichtviel von ihm Mansagt, dass er krank ist.

in der Stadt.

On parlebeacoup de lui dans On ditqu'il est malade.

la ville.

It is true that in English the indefinite pronoun one and occa-
sionally the personal pronouns we, you and they and the noun peo-
may be used in the same way.

e.g. "One ought to keep one's languages up," said Roy; his gaze

was solemn, reproving, understanding. "It's terrible how

oneforgets them. Isn't it?"
Onewill have to think twice about accepting invitations — if

there is a risk of being made miserable. Onewill just have

to refuse.
"Is that the old lady who lives in the house by the church?"

"That's right." "Theysay she's sharp," said Tiddler.

"They say there's nothing goes on near that Miss Marple

doesn't hear about."
In my young days it was considered to be bad manners to

take medicines with one's meals. If youhad to take pills

or capsules, or a spoonful of something, youwent out of

the room to do so.
"Oh, I'm sure I never said anything of the kind," Lola laughed.

"Peopleexaggerate so."

But for some reason or other, the use of this kind of sentences
is restricted, and English, instead, resorts to passive constructions.

2) In English, owing to the loss of distinction between the ac-
cusative and the dative cases, the number of verbs taking a direct
object is quite considerable. It accounts for the extensive use of
the Direct Passive.

3) There is a great variety of passive constructions in English.
Although some of them are restricted in their application, they
still contribute to the frequent occurrence of the Passive.


§ 70. Generally Moodshows the relation between the action ex-
pressed by the predicate verb and reality. This relation is estab-
lished by the speaker.

In present-day English the category of moodis made up by a
set of forms opposed to each other in presenting the event de-
scribed as a real fact, a problematic action or as something un-
real that does not exist.

§ 71.Actions represented as real facts are expressed by the In-
dicative Mood.

e.g. Architects have donesome very good work, too, in designing
new schools. Many of these areprefabricated, which means
that as much of the building work as possible is donenot
on the building site but in factories where mass produc-
tion methods are used.

When the brothers hadgone home, Mr Waterall announced
that they werea much pleasanter pair of young men than
he had been ledto believe.

The Indicative Mood is characterized by a great number of
tense-aspect-phase forms which may be used in the Active or in the
Passive Voice. These forms have been described in "Verbs", § 7-68.

Note. It should be stressed that the use of the Indicative Mood does not always-.
mean that the action expressed by the predicate verb is true to fact, that it actually
takes (or took, or will take) place in reality. When the speaker uses the Indicative
Mood he merely represents an action as a fact, but he may be mistaken or even tell-
ing a lie.

e.g. "I've seen to it," he said, but everyone knew it was not true.

§ 72. Commands and requests which are problematic actions
are expressed by the Imperative Mood.

The Imperative Mood is the plain stem of the verb (e.g. Come
over here. Listen to him,
etc.). It may be used in the affirmative
and in the negative form. The negative form is an analytical form
built up by means of the plain stem of the auxiliary verb to dofol-
lowed by not(in spoken English — don't)and the infinitive of the
notional verb without to(e.g. Don't go over there. Don't listen to

him, etc.). The negative form of the verb to be is also built up by
means of the auxiliary verb to do(e.g. Don't be inquisitive. Don't
be afool,

If we wish to make a command or request more expressive, we
use the emphatic form. It is also an analytical form built up with
the help of the plain stem of the auxiliary verb to dowhich is
placed before the notional verb, including to be(e.g. Do come over
here. Do listen to him. Do be quiet,

A command or request is generally addressed to the second
person singular or plural (see the examples above). There is usual-
ly no need to mention the subject of the action before the verb in
the Imperative Mood. But occasionally the verb may be preceded
by you in familiar style (e.g. You don't worry.).

A command or request may be addressed to the third person,
singular or plural. Commands and requests of this kind are formed
with the help of the plain stem of the verb to letwhich is followed
by a personal pronoun in the objective case (him, her, it or them)
and the infinitive of the notional verb without to(e.g. Let him go
there at once. Let them do it by themselves,

A command or request may be addressed to the first person
plural. It is also formed with the help of the plain stem of the verb
to letfollowed by the pronoun us (the contracted form is let's)
and the infinitive of the notional verb. This form is actually an
invitation to a joint action (e.g. Let's have a cup of tea. Let's do
it together, etc.). In the negative form let's is followed by not
(e.g. Let's not talk about it.).

Note. In colloquial English we also find Don't let's talk about it.

§ 73. Actions represented as unreal are in present-day English
expressed by a variety of forms.

Among them there is a mood form — the Conditional Mood
(see § 124).

The fact that there are a number of forms engaged in ex-
pressing unreal actions can be explained historically.

In the older periods English used to be a synthetic language
and had special forms which served to express unreal actions —
the so-called Subjunctive Mood. It was built up synthetically by
means of inflections. As a result of loss of inflections, the differ-
ence between the forms of the Indicative Mood and the Subjunctive

Mood has in most cases disappeared. The place of the old Subjunc-
tive Mood was in a number of cases taken up by analytical forms
and modal phrases, i.e. combinations of modal verbs with the in-
finitive. It is this historical process that accounts for the great
variety of different forms expressing unreality in modern En-

As some of the forms expressing problematic or unreal actions
are modal phrases, it is necessary before describing the different
forms of unreality to treat modal verbs first.

§ 74. The speaker's attitude towards the action in the sentence
may be expressed in different ways:

1)By one of the mood formswhich serve, as has been said, to
show whether the action is represented as a real fact or as prob-
lematic, or unreal. This form of expression is found in every sen
tence because it is indispensable to predication.

2) By modal verbswhich represent an action as necessary or
unnecessary, possible or impossible, certain or doubtful and the
like. But modal verbs need not be used in every sentence and are,
therefore, to be regarded as an additional means of expressing the
speaker's attitude towards the action in the sentence.

3) By attitudinal adverbssuch as certainly, perhaps, probably,
luckily, unfortunately,
etc. (see also "Adverbs", § 2, 8). They ex-
press different degrees of certainty on the part of the speaker or
the desirability of the action from his point of view.

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