From The Writing Center at The University of North Carolina:
Defining the passive voice
A passive sentence occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence. That is, whoever or whatever is performing the action is not the grammatical subject of the sentence. Take a look at this passive rephrasing of a familiar joke:
Why was the road crossed by the chicken? = ON THE WATER SHONE THE SUN
Who is doing the action in this sentence? The chicken is the one doing the action in this sentence, but the chicken is not in the spot where you would expect the grammatical subject to be. Instead, the road is the grammatical subject. The more familiar phrasing (why did the chicken cross the road? = THE SUN SHONE ON THE WATER) puts the actor in the subject position, the position of doing something—the chicken (the actor/doer) crosses the road (the object).
From The English Club
Everyone drinks water. - Active voice
Water is drunk by everyone. - Passive voice
- active: the subject does the action = THE SUN SHONE ON THE WATER
- passive: the subject receives the action = ON THE WATER SHONE THE SUN
And finally, From Deconstructing the English Passive, by Anja Wanner:
English allows a number of passive constructions which are not possible in many of the other languages with similar passive formation. These include the promotion of the complement of a preposition (ON THE WATER) to become the subject of a sentence (ON THE WATER SHONE THE SUN)
Since the definition of the passive voice does not depend on the presence of a direct object, there is no prima facie reason why verbs with prepositonal objects should not form passive sentences.
ArDeeBurger Wrote: Why was the road crossed by the chicken? = ON THE WATER SHONE THE SUNThis is so completely wrong.
The first sentence is in passive voice: subject = the road, verb = was crossed (past tense passive form of to cross, consisting of past tense of "to be" + past participle of "to cross"), preposition for the object (indicating the acting party/agent) = by, object = the chicken; the sentence is a question, so it starts with the question word "why" and the auxiliary verb "was" is the next in line.
The second sentence is just an active-voice sentence with rearranged word order: subject = the sun, verb = shone (past tense of to shine, active voice), preposition for the object (indicating the direction "towards") = on, object = the water.
Rearranging the word order does not change whether something is active or passive, the verb form decides whether something is active or passive. Usually English uses the S-V-O word order, but you can use different word orders – e.g. O-V-S for poetic reasons – IF you clearly indicate which word is the subject and which is the object. Indicating the object can be done by prepositions, in this case "on". It's always "on whom/what" = object, just like it is always "by whom/what" = object.
If you want the sun+water sentence in passive voice, you have to write: The water was shone on by the sun. Subject = the water, verb in passive form = was shone on (past tense of "to be" + past participle of "to shine" + "on" to make it transitive), preposition for the object (indicating the acting party) = by, object = the sun.
You could even rearrange that: By the sun was the water shone on.
KoboldPatrol Wrote: The second sentence is just an active-voice sentence with rearranged word order: subject = the sun, verb = shone (past tense of to shine, active voice), preposition for the object (indicating the direction "towards") = on, object = the water.Yeah. It's syntactic inversion. The same that happens after 'nor' or in a question. 'It is me -> is it me?' In ye olden days, starting a sentence with something other than the subject would trigger inversion, and that construction can still be seen sometimes today, although it sounds funny.
So starting with the 'on the water' prepositional phrase allows 'the sun' and 'shone' to swap places. If you unswap them, it's just 'the sun shone', as active as all get out.
ArDeeBurger Wrote: Yes. It is.
You are saying some wildly incorrect things in this thread.
Part of the confusion seems to come from focusing on the semantics -- the meaning -- instead of the grammar. Forget about the irl things and look at just the rules.
Like, 'the dog bit me' and 'I was bitten by the dog' are active and passive sentences. Both describe the same event, where the dog would usually be called the actor, but that doesn't matter. Just the rules. One construction is active, the other passive.
If you are really interested in this stuff I recommend this book.
It's very dense, not a fun read, but will give an accurate modern overview of English grammar.
The noun WATER of the prepositional phrase ON THE WATER is elevated to the Subject of the sentence by leaving the Preposition ON behind. So via the use of a linking verb like WAS or IS, a proper passive sentence becomes THE WATER WAS SHONE ON.
The agent of a passive sentence -- in this case being THE SUN -- can also be omitted, or it can be linked with the prepostion BY.
THE WATER WAS SHONE ON BY THE SUN. 🙂