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ESL Grammar Resources

Non Passives           
 

The following sentences indicate a common error among non-native speakers of English.

    X Jackson was arrived at 10:00 yesterday.

    X My dog was died last week.

    X What was happened?

    X Dudley was slept at a hotel last night.

When using the simple past tense, only one verb is needed. The correct sentences are:

    Jackson arrived at 10:00 yesterday.

    My dog died last week.

    What happened?

    Dudley slept at a hotel last night.

Sometimes students confuse the simple past tense with the passive. Notice the difference in the following sentences.

    Tamara ate a sandwich at noon.

    A sandwich was eaten by Tamara.

    Tamara ate yesterday.

    Yesterday was eaten by Tamara.


    Simple past tense

    Passive past tense

    Okay

    Not Okay

    (Yesterday is not an object. Thus, the passive is not possible here.)

Some verbs in English are in-transitive. That is, they do not take objects. These verbs cannot be used in the passive voice.

    Alexander wrote a letter.

    A letter was written by Alexander.

    The news surprised Karen.

    Karen was surprised (by the news).

    My dog died last week.

    X My dog was died last week.

    Monica swims every day.

    Monica is swum every day.


    Transitive verb and object

    Passive voice okay

    Transitive verb and object

    Passive voice okay

    In-transitive verb (no object)

    Incorrect! Passive not okay

    In-transitive verb (no object)

    Incorrect! Passive not okay

*Some verbs can be either transitive or in-transitive depending on the situation.

    Jim walked to school this morning.

    Jim walked the dog this morning.

    The dog was walked (by Jim).


    In-transitive (no object)

    Transitive (passive possible)


 

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