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Passive Verbs with Two Objects

Focus on the "patient" or the "recipient" of the action taken

Teacher
 

 

Subject is the Direct Object or Indirect Object

DIRECT OBJECT AS SUBJECT

The direct object is the "patient" of the action. (The person or thing that undergoes or experiences the action taken.) Beginning the sentence with the direct object shifts focus to the person or thing acted upon.                                                                       

A project was assigned to us by our math teacher.

We had to figure out how to calculate the surface area of a doughnut.

A doughnut was presented to each student.

If our calculation was correct, we could eat the doughnut.

A bonus was awarded to a student who calculated its volume.  

INDIRECT OBJECT AS SUBJECT

The indirect object is the recipient or beneficiary of the action taken. (The person or thing that receives the benefit or enjoyment of the action.)  Beginning the sentence with the indirect object shifts focus to these recipients or beneficiaries.

We were assigned a project by our math teacher.

Each of us was presented a doughnut.

A student was awarded a bonus for calculating its volume.

 

bonus (N) – something given or paid over and above what is due; extra (A teacher usually gives extra points.)
calculate (V) – find the amount by mathematical method
doughnut shapedoughnut (N) – a cake in the shape of a tire or wheel
shift (V) – moves; changes; transfer from one place to another
surface area (N) – the total exterior surface
volume – (N) – the amount of space that a three-dimensional object occupies
Also see Ditransitive Verbs  (verts that take objects and indirect objects)

 

RELATED GRAMMAR TERMS

Semantic roles:  (meanings)

agent—the person or thing that takes action to do something. (He sang a song for them.. The wind blew the leaves.)

patient—the person or thing that undergoes the action of the verb. The thing acted upon. (He sang a song for them..)

beneficiary—the person (or entity) that receives the benefit or enjoyment of the action. (He sang them a song. He sang a song for them.)

recipient—the person (or entity) that is the receiver or endpoint of the action. (He sang her a song. He sang a song to her. )

Functions: (uses)

direct object (DO) — (usually a noun phrase) the person or entity (thing, concept, etc.) that undergoes the the action expressed by the predicate.  (He sang a song.)

indirect object (IO) — (usually a noun phrase) the people or things that carry the semantic role (meaning) of goal (location), recipient (receiver), beneficiary of (one who receives the benefit of or enjoyment) an action or event. goal—The teacher sent the students home. [to]; recipient—The teacher gave Jason a book. [to]; beneficiary—The teacher saved Jason a book. [for]

Verbs types:

dynamic verb – a verb in which an action takes place (not a static verb or copula)

static verb – (stative verb) a verb that is not dynamic; no action takes place (e.g., be, seem, appear, etc.) 

intransitive verb – a verb that does not take an object as its complement (and cannot be passive). (e.g., He lies down.)

transitive verb – a verb that takes an object as its complement. (e.g., He lay the baby down.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shifting Focus to the Indirect Object

"Recipient" Expressed in Two Possible Forms

 

 

 

Our teacher gave us a project (to us).

DIRECT OBJECT AS SUBJECT

The direct object (DO) may function as the subject of the clause.  The by-phrase (the agent) is mentioned only if it adds information necessary to understanding the sentence, or if placing emphasis on the "doer".

Our teacher gave us a project.
move to rightdirect object is focus

SUBJ (DO) PRED COMP (IO) ADJUNCT
PATIENT ACTION RECIPIENT AGENT
NP PASSIVE VERB PP BY PHRASE

A project

was assigned  

to us 

by our teacher. 

A doughnut

was presented  

to us 

by our teacher. 

A bonus

was awarded

to a student

by our teacher. 

A prize

was given

*us

to us

by the principal.

 

INDIRECT OBJECT AS SUBJECT

The indirect object (IO) may function as the subject of the clause. The verbs below belong to a group of verbs that express the recipient" in two ways: (1) an indirect object (IO) or (2) a prepositional phrase (PP)

Our teacher gave us a project (to us).
move to rightdirect object is focus

SUBJ (IO) PRED COMP (DO) ADJUNCT
RECIPIENT ACTION PATIENT AGENT
NP PASSIVE VERB NP / PP BY PHRASE

We

were assigned  

a project 

by our teacher. 

We

were presented  

a doughnut

by our teacher. 

A bonus

was awarded

to a student

by our teacher. 

We

were given

a prize

by the principal.

 

 

Functions: Subj – subject; Pred – predicate/predicator; Compcomplement: elements required by an expression to complete its meaning (DO – direct object; IO – indirect object);  Adjunctadjunct: elements not required by an expression to complete its meaning (Subord – subordinator; Coord – coordinator); Suplsupplement: a clause or phrase added onto a clause that is not closely related to the central thought or structure of the main clause.

 

 

 

assign

award

bring

deny

feed

give

hand

kick

lend

offer

owe

pass

post

promise

read

sell

send

served

show

teach

tell

throw

write

 

See Indirect  Obj / FOR

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shifting Focus to the Indirect Object

"Recipient"  as Indirect Object Only

 

 

 

Our teacher asked us a question (to us).

INDIRECT OBJECT AS SUBJECT

For verbs whose recipient is an indirect object (and where a prep. phrase form is not an option), speakers prefer the indirect object as the subject of a passive clause.

SUBJ (IO) PRED COMP (DO) ADJUNCT
RECIPIENT ACTION PATIENT AGENT
NP PASSIVE VERB NP / PP BY PHRASE

We

were asked

a question

by our teacher. 

We

were saved

some time

by our teacher. 

We

were allowed

a doughnut

by our teacher. 

We

were charged

a dollar

by our teacher. 

DIRECT OBJECT AS SUBJECT

If the direct object is selected, a prepositional phrase is formed for the passive clause (not the active clause) with the addition of either to or for.  (These sound awkward!)

SUBJ (DO) PRED COMP (IO) ADJUNCT
PATIENT ACTION RECIPIENT AGENT
NP PASSIVE VERB PP BY PHRASE

A question

was asked

us¹ / to us / of us 

by our teacher. 

Some time

was saved

*me/ for me² 

by my friend. 

One doughnut

was allowed

*us / for us

by our teacher. 

A dollar

was charged

*us / to us

by our teacher. 

 

¹ speakers occasionally use just the indirect pronoun with ask.
² He saved me time. (He did some of my work so that my work is less.)  He saved some time for me. (He set aside time to spend with me or to help me.)

 

 

 

 

allow

ask

bet

charge

envy

excuse

fine

forgive

order

permit

refuse

save ²

strike

tax

tip

wish

See Indirect Object / TO  Indirect Object / FOR

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shifting Focus to the Indirect Object

"Recipient" as Prepositional Phrase Only

 

 

 

Our teacher announced (us) the project to us.

INDIRECT OBJECT  AS SUBJECT

For verbs whose recipient is expressed as a prep. phrase (and where an indirect obj. form is not an option), speakers prefer the direct object as the subject of a passive clause.

SUBJ (DO) PRED COMP (IO) ADJUNCT
PATIENT ACTION RECIPIENT AGENT
NP PASSIVE VERB PP BY PHRASE

The project 

was announced  

to us

by our teacher. 

The method

was described  

to us

by our teacher. 

The answer

was explained

to us

by our teacher. 

The ideas

were suggested

to us

by our teacher. 

INDIRECT OBJECT  AS SUBJECT

If the indirect object is selected as the subject, the clause sounds awkward. Either select the direct object as the subject or use it. It was announced to us that…                      

SUBJ (IO) PRED COMP (DO) ADJUNCT
RECIPIENT ACTION PATIENT AGENT
NP PASSIVE VERB NP / PP BY PHRASE

*We

were announced  

the project 

by our teacher. 

*We

were described  

the method

by our teacher. 

*We

was explained

the answer

by our teacher. 

*We

were suggested

the ideas

by our teacher. 

 

It was described to us that the method would be…
It was explained to us that the anwser was…
It was suggested to us that the idea s would be…

 

 

 

announce

confess

contributed

convey

declare

describe

deliver

donate

explain

introduce

mention

narrate

refer

prove

return

report

say

speak

submit

suggest

transfer

 

 

 

See Indirect Object / TO  Indirect Object / FOR

 

 

 

 

 

 

Passive Clauses

Reasons for Using Passive

 

 

 

ACTIVE VOICE

The active voice is preferred in most cases.  It is considered to be more dynamic and straight forward (less complicated).

FOCUSING ON IMPORTANCE

The President is awarding three men with the medal of honor.

Importance is placed on the "doer".

KEEPING THE SUBJECT THE SAME

Yesterday, Mr. Reynolds received the medal of honor. Enemy troops wounded Mr. Reynolds while he was protecting his mates. He managed to call for help. Medics rescued him and flew him to safety.

The subject flip-flops.
 

PLACING HEAVIER INFO AT THE END

Mr. Reynolds who was wounded while protecting his mates from incoming artillery fire showed us his scars.

 

PASSIVE VOICE

The passive voice is used for shifting focus and rewording clauses so that they fit better into the surrounding context.

FOCUSING ON IMPORTANCE

Mr. Reynolds is being awarded the medal of honor today.

No particular importance is placed on the "doer".

KEEPING THE SUBJECT THE SAME

Yesterday, Mr. Reynolds received the medal of honor. Mr. Reynolds was wounded in World War II while he was protecting his mates. He managed to call for help… He was rescued and flown to safety.     

The subject stays the same in the series of events.
 

PLACING HEAVIER INFO AT THE END

We were shown a picture of Mr. Reynolds who was wounded while protecting his mates from incoming artillery fire.

 

 

scars (N) – a mark left of the skin after being hurt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

The law was explained me by the officer.

To me was asked several questions.

The answer was said me by my friend.

*The children were explained the problem. 

*We were suggested a solution.

SOLUTION

The law was explained to me by the officer.

I was asked several questions.

The answer was said to me by my friend.

The problem was explained to the children.  

A solution was suggested to us.

 

Also see Said Synonyms (told me/ said to me)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grammar Notes(Advanced)

Traditional and Linguistic Description

 

 

Traditional / ESL and Linguistic Descriptions

TRADITIONAL GRAMMAR LINGUISTIC DESCRIPTION

In the passive, the object of an active verb becomes the subject of a passive verb.  Only transitive verbs (verbs that can be followed by an object) are used in the passive. (Azar 11-1)

Usually the passive is used without a by-phrase. The passive is most frequently used when it is not known or not important to know exactly who performs an action. (Azar 11-3)

Passives are used

  • to talk about an action, but are not so interested in saying who or what does/did it. This is particularly common in academic and scientific writing.   The Parthenon was built around 447 B.C.
  • to put the news at the end   It was painted by my grandmother.
  • to keep the same subject  She was driving, then she was hit, so she walked home.
  • to put heavier expressions at the end
  • with specific verbs I was born, English is spoken here

(Swan 414.1-5)

Ditransitives and their related passives.

  • First passive – the subject corresponds to the first object. Oi
  • Second passive – the subject corresponds to the second object Od

      a letter = Od (direct object) / Sue = Oi (indirect object)

— Jack sent Sue a letter. / Jack ordered Sue a burger.
— Sue was sent a letter. / ? Sue was ordered a burger. [first passive]
— A letter was sent Sue. / A burger was ordered Sue. [second passive]

(Huddleston 4 §4.3)

VERBS WITH TWO OBJECTS DITRANSITIVE VERBS

Passives (4) verbs with two objects — Many verbs can be followed by two objects, an indirect and a direct object (give, send, show, etc.) The choice between the two passives depends "on what has been said before, or on what needs to be put last in the sentence ."(Swan 415)

The verb licenses a ditransitive or monotransitive verb.

  • I gave her the key. (ditransitive – IO + DO)
  • I gave the key to her. (monotransitive – DO + to phrase)

Huddleston 4 §8.2  (list of verbs 309)
 

INDIRECT OBJECTS DITRANSITIVE / MONOTRANSITIVE VERBS

Two patterns are possible for the indirect object:

  • He is going to give a book to Mary. [pattern A]
  • He is going to give Mary a book. [pattern B]

(Lado 8.A1)

"Ditransitive Clauses" Most ditransive clauses have alternates with a single object and a PP complement with to or for as head:

Jack sent Sue a letter.(IO) → Jack sent a letter to Sue.(PP)
Jack ordered Sue a burger → Jack ordered a burger for Sue.

This departs from traditional analysis where the PPs to Sue and for Sue are taken to be indirect objects. Huddleston 4 §4.3

 

 

 

Resources

  • Lado, Robert, and Charles Carpenter Fries. English Sentence Structures, University of Michigan Press, 1958. Print
  • Huddleston, Rodney D., and Geoffrey K. Pullum. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2002. Print.
  • Swan, Michael. Practical English Usage. 4th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

An Email Slip-up

forward option
 

 

Read the Context

Last week, something unfortunate (happen). A friend sent an email to me.  It was really funny. I forwarded the email to a friend without looking at the rest of the email. 

The friend passed the email along to his friends. Next, his friends posted the message on a social network. After that, people shared the message with people on other social networks.

Unexpectedly, I received a message from my friend. He had sent me the email originally.

He showed me the part at the bottom of the email that had confidential information about his search for a new job.

He was upset. Several co-worker asked him questions about why he was looking for a new job.

I went back into my email and read the message. I was embarrassed that I hadn't read it.  Also, I had embarrassed him at work.

confidential (N) – private; not intended for other people to read

embarrass  (V) – do something that is socially unacceptable

job search (N) – the process of looking for new employment

originally (adv.) – in the beginning

slip-up  (expression) – mistake; error

 

 

 

Reword the sentence, if necessary, so that paragraph reads more smoothly.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check 1-10" button at the bottom, or click the "Check" button to the left  as you go.

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.
about why he was looking for a new job.

10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Letter Arrives After 60 Years

lost letter
 

 

Read Story

A soldier's love letter to his young wife was recently found by a post office employee.

Roy Roberts sent a letter from basic training in Fort Ord to his wife, Jane, in San Jose. But the letter had somehow gotten lost. Roberts says he was 21-years-old when he wrote the letter from basic training; he would write to his wife of 6-months everyday.

Last week, Roberts was handed the letter by the postmaster. He said that one of the postal workers who was sorting the mail noticed that it was yellowed and had no zip code, so he threw it aside.  Another employee noticed that the postmark was nearly 60 years old, so he presented it to the postmaster later in the day.

The postmaster was amused by its appearance, so he looked up the addressee, found the new address, and decided to deliver the letter personally. Roberts recognized the handwriting on the letter immediately. He didn't know that Jane had never received it.  Unfortunately, his wife, Jane, died from cancer In 2005 after 53 years of marriage.

The postmaster related to Mr. Roberts the story of how the letter was found . However, the postmaster couldn't explain the late delivery of the letter to Roberts. The postmaster said that someone probably had just found the letter in a forgotten pile of papers and put it back into the mail. 

Roberts says he plans on framing the letter and hanging it in his bedroom.

addressee (N) – person to whom the letter is addressed

frame (V) – putting a photo or painting under glass with a wood perimeter so that the item can be hung on a wall

postmaster (N) – the head (person) of an individual post office

soldier (N) – a person who serves in the military

sort (V) – separate letters into groups based on destination

 

 

 

 

Correct or Incorrect?

  1. Select the option: correct — it is a good reason to use passive, or incorrect — it is an unecessary use of passive.
  2. Compare your responses to the answers by clicking the "Check" or the "Check 11-20" button at the bottom.

 

11.
 A soldier's love letter was found by the post office after 60 years.

     

12.
The letter was sent by Rogers, who was in basic training at Fort Ord, to his young wife, Jane.

       

13.
The mail was being sorted by a postal worker when he noticed the yellowed letter with a 60-year old post mark.

     

14.
The postmaster was presented the letter by a postal worker who noticed it.

     

15.
The letter was delivered to Mr. Roberts personally by the postmaster.

     

16.
Mr. Roberts was explained the situation: a postal worker had just found his lost letter.

     

17.
Mr. Roberts wished his wife could have read it, but she was died.

     

18.
The address was looked up and the addressee was found.

     

19.
The late delivery of the letter was not explained by the postmaster.

     

20.
Perhaps, the letter was saved for him by a family member, who put it back in the mail to cheer him up.

     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

An Unexpected Offer

office enironment
 

 

Read the Context

Yesterday, a headhunter offered me a new job. The headhunter emailed me a message about an opening at startup company. I already had a job that I liked very much. But the offer intrigued me

The headhunter described the job skills to me. The headhunter told me details about the position. The headhunter promised me a much better salary. I told her that I already had a job. The headhunter suggested keeping an open mind to me.

The headhunter asked me a few questions about my availability. The headhunter gave me an invitation to visit the company offices. The headhunter introduced me to the group that I would work with.

I thought about the pros and the cons. I owe money for my house. I have four "mouths" to feed (my family). The higher salary would be useful. The work would be interesting.

Tooday, I accepted and they are hiring me.

availability (N) – being available, having an opening in one's calandar to do something  or schedule an appointment

headhunter (N) a person (male or female) who searches for skilled, new employees for a corporation; a personnel recruiter

intrigue (V) – interest very much; cause to be curious, fascinated by somethng new and unusual

pros and cons (expression) – the good points and the bad points

recruit (V) – to actively search for new people to join a group, corporation, or military

 

 

 

Change sentences so that the focus is on the employee not the personnel recruiter.

Note that when a person is contacted regarding a new job opportunity, it is customary to keep the communications private.  The name of the company and the recruiter is not mentioned.  The employee usually says very little while considering the new position so that  he or she does not compromise his or her existing job.

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your responses to the answers by clicking the "Check" or the "Check 21-30" button at the bottom.

 

21.
Yesterday, a headhunter offered me a new job.


22.
The headhunter emailed me a message about an opening at a startup company. The offer intrigued me.


23.
The headhunter described the job skills to me.


24.
The headhunter told me some details about the position.


25.
The headhunter promised me a much better salary.


26.
The headhunter suggested keeping an open mind to me.


27.
The headhunter asked me a few questions about my availability.


28.
The headhunter gave me an invitation to visit the company offices.


29.
The headhunter introduced me to the group that I would work with.


30.
Today, I accepted and they are hiring me.