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some troubles with passsives

What, do you think,is a better passive construction for the following sentence? ‘’They took no notice of her rude remarks.'’ A) ‘’No notice was taken of her rude remarks.'’ B) ‘’Her rude remarks were taken no notice of.'’

I know that the ‘B’ option is correct, at least it should be, but I wondered if ‘A’ is possible at all. Does it sound natural to you, the English people? Can’t we treat the word ‘notice’ as an object of the active sentence and then make it a subject of the passive one?

  • March 11, 2005
  • Posted by marta
  • Filed in Grammar

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Actually, a pedant would insist on A as the "correct" rendering, since B ends with a preposition, which is (according to the language pedants) grammatically incorrect.

I'd agree, although for different reasons. A sounds perfectly fine to me (and is perfectly acceptable English), where B sounds more stilted and ugly to my ears.

dave March 11, 2005, 5:44am

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I agree that Dave made the better choice of the two options given. However, there's a third, more complete option.

It's really easy to "lose" pieces of the active sentence when converting to passive, and vice versa. Let's use as an illustration another active sentence similar to your sample sentence:

"Santa Ana's forces gave no quarter to the defenders of the Alamo."

If I was to formulate an "A" and "B" sentence like yours from the example, this is what I'd get:

A) No quarter was given to the defenders of the Alamo.
B) The defenders of the Alamo were given no quarter.

What happened to Santa Ana's forces? (Well, they defeated the defenders of the Alamo, which gave rise to the rallying cry of Texan independence, "Remember the Alamo," but that's a story for another time, kids.)

The passive sentence that truly corresponds with the example would be, "No quarter was given by Santa Ana's forces to the defenders of the Alamo."

Therefore, the passive sentence that corresponds to your example sentence would be more like, "No notice was taken by them of her rude remarks."

speedwell2 March 11, 2005, 8:09am

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You may also choose to simply flip prepositional phrases around in either example I just gave, which would yield:

"The defenders of the Alamo were given no quarter by Santa Ana's forces," and

"Her rude remarks were taken no notice of by them."

speedwell2 March 11, 2005, 8:16am

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I'll throw in another voice for A, though I'd replace B with "Her rude comments were ignored".

Persephone Imytholin March 11, 2005, 8:25am

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Mmm, I think A sounds much better.

sfgiantsrock4 March 11, 2005, 9:02pm

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Choice B is completely incorrect not only because it ends with a preposition but also because "her rude remarks" was not the direct object of the orignal sentence. Rather, it was the object of the preposition "of."

"Notice" was the original object of "took," therefore, it is rightfully the subject of the passive version "was taken."

Caitlyn He March 11, 2005, 10:45pm

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I object to the word 'better', without an explanation of what this 'better' might be. Better for whom? Better grammatically? Better historically? May be I am dense, as I am not a native English speaking person, but your question sounds very ambiguous in my ears.

Ozymandias March 13, 2005, 7:09pm

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Although Marta didn't directly state her idea of what "better" means, she did say that she's trying to find the one that "sound[s] natural" and is grammatically correct.

lamont2718 March 13, 2005, 8:18pm

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Coming from an Iowan point of view, I think A sounds much better. I don't think I've ever heard anything like B before.

Zach March 14, 2005, 2:37am

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Hear ye, hear ye.

It hasn't been "completely incorrect" to end a sentence with a preposition since, oh, people stopped speaking actual Latin in colleges.

Come to think of it, it's never been incorrect to end an English sentence with a preposition. Some Victorian busybodies noticed it never happened in Latin, so OBVIOUSLY that meant it should never happen in English.

After all, Latin and English are the same language, right?


speedwell2 March 14, 2005, 8:23am

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I would say "Her rude remarks were ignored"

John March 20, 2005, 1:24pm

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I have to agree with Caitlyn here. Simplified, the original sentence boils down to "They took notice". The passive form would be "Notice was taken". I don't think anything that doesn't derive from that works in this case.

joachim June 24, 2005, 4:44pm

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Yes     No