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Show full table of contents General properties of passives
[+]  I.  Demotion of the external argument

The core property of the passive construction is the demotion of the external argument of the active verb to adjunct status. Since unaccusative verbs do not have an external argument, this immediately accounts for the fact that these verbs cannot be passivized. This is illustrated in (19) for the monadic unaccusative verbs sterven'to die' and drijven'to float', which select, respectively, the auxiliary zijn and the auxiliary hebben in the perfect tense; cf. Section 2.1.2, sub III.

Example 19
a. De man stierf onder verschrikkelijke omstandigheden.
  the man died  in terrible circumstances
a'. * Er werd (door de man) onder verschrikkelijke omstandigheden gestorven.
  there was    by the man  in terrible circumstances  died
b. De jongen drijft op het water.
  the boy  floats  on the water
b'. * Er wordt (door de jongen) op het water gedreven.
  there is  by the boy  on the water  floated

Example (20) shows the same thing for the nom-dat (dyadic unaccusative) verbs opvallen'to stand out/catch the eye' and tegenstaan'to pall on', which respectively select zijn and hebben in the perfect tense; cf. Section 2.1.3, sub E. The singly-primed examples show that impersonal passivization is excluded, and the doubly-primed examples show that krijgen-passivization is also excluded.

Example 20
a. De jongen viel me op.
  that boy  stood.out  me  prt.
  'That boy caught my eye.'
a'. * Er werd mij (door de jongen) opgevallen.
  there  was  me   by the boy  stood.out
a''. * Ik kreeg (door de jongen) opgevallen.
  got   by the boy  stood.out
b. De jongen stond me erg tegen.
  the boy  palled   me  much  on
  'The boy disgusts me.'
b'. * Er werd mij (door de jongen) tegengestaan.
  there  was  me   by the boy  on-palled
b''. * Ik kreeg (door de jongen) tegengestaan.
  got   by  the boy  on-palled

The examples in (21), finally, show the same thing for the undative verbs krijgen and hebben, which are likewise characterized by the lack of an external argument; cf. Section 2.1.4.

Example 21
a. Jan kreeg/heeft het boek.
  Jan got/has  the book
b. * Het boek werd (door Jan) gehad/gekregen.
  the book  was   by Jan  had/gotten

      The fact that the (in)transitive/unaccusative status of the verb determines whether or not passivization is allowed makes it impossible to give an exhaustive list of verbs that do or do not allow passivization. This can be readily illustrated by means of the verb breken'to break', which can be used both as a transitive and as an unaccusative verb. The primed examples in (22) show that it does not make sense to say that breken does or does not allow passivization; all that can be said is that breken does allow passivization if it is used transitively, but not if it is used unaccusatively.

Example 22
a. Jan breekt het raam.
  Jan breaks  the window
a'. Het raam wordt (door Jan) gebroken.
  the window  is   by Jan  broken
b. Het raam breekt.
  the window  breaks
b'. * Er wordt (door het raam) gebroken.
  there  is   by the window  broken

It is generally assumed that the pragmatic function of passivization is that of backgrounding the subject of the active clause; see, e.g., Kirsner (1976). This is, of course, especially clear if the agent is left unexpressed, but the same effect is obtained if the agent is overtly realized as an agentive door-phrase. That passivization has this effect is related to the fact that the subject position of a clause is a typical topic position; by removing the agentive argument from this position, it is less likely that its referent will be construed as the entity that the discourse is about. This can be illustrated by the examples in (23); the question introduces Jan as a new discourse topic, which is presented as such in the primeless but not the primed (b)-example.

Example 23
a. Wat is er met Jan? Hij kijkt zo blij.
  what  is there  with Jan  he  looks  so happy
  'What is going on with Jan? Heʼs looking so happy.'
b. Hij heeft een nieuwe auto gekocht.
  he  has  a new car  bought
  'He has bought a new car.'
b'. # Er is door hem een nieuwe auto gekocht.
  there  is by him  a new car  bought
  'A new car has been bought by him.'
[+]  II.  The implicit agent argument

The demoted subject of the active construction can remain implicit but can normally also be made explicit by means of an optional agentive door-phrase. One exception to this rule is the generic pronoun men in (24a); the reason is that men can only be used as the subject of a finite clause; cf. Section N5.2.1.1, sub I.

Example 24
a. Men speelt daar graag.
  one  plays  there  gladly
  'One likes to play there.'
b. Er wordt daar graag (*door men) gespeeld.
  there  is  there  gladly     by one  played

It is not entirely clear whether the same holds for the generic pronoun je'one'. An example such as (25a) can be passivized but it is not clear whether the implied agent can be interpreted in such a way that the agent is identical to the inalienable possessor of the teeth; adding a door-phrase with the generic pronoun je seems marked.

Example 25
a. Je moet je tanden elke dag poetsen.
  one  has.to  oneʼs teeth  every day  brush
  'One has to brush oneʼs teeth every day.'
b. Je tanden moeten elke dag (??door je) gepoetst worden.
  oneʼs teeth  has.to  every day     by one  brushed  be
  'Oneʼs teeth have to be brushed every day.'

That the agent is implicitly present, even if the door-phrase is not realized, is clear from the distribution of agent-oriented adverbs like expres/opzettelijk'deliberately'. First consider the primeless examples in (26). These examples show that these adverbs require the subject of the clause to be an agent, as in (26a) ; if the subject of the clause is a theme, as in (26b), the use of these adverbs gives rise to an unacceptable result. The fact that expres/opzettelijk can be used in passive constructions such as (26a') therefore suggests that the agent of the active sentence is still implicitly present.

Example 26
a. Jan sloeg het bord expres/opzettelijk in stukken.
  Jan   hit  the plate  deliberately  to pieces
  'Jan hit the plate deliberately to pieces.'
a'. Het bord werd expres/opzettelijk in stukken geslagen.
  the plate  was  deliberately  to pieces  hit
b. * Het bord viel expres/opzettelijk in stukken.
  the plate  fell  deliberately  to pieces

Something similar can be illustrated on the basis of the interpretation of the phonetically empty subject PRO in infinitival clauses. The primeless examples in (27) show that PRO must be controlled by some appropriate constituent in the main clause; the infinitival verb pesten'to pester' requires an agentive subject and this condition is satisfied in (27a), in which PRO is controlled by the +human argument Jan, but not in (27b), in which PRO is controlled by the -animate argument het bord'the plate'. The fact that the passive construction in (27a') is fully acceptable again strongly suggests that PRO is controlled by some implicit agent argument.

Example 27
a. Jan sloeg het bord in stukken [om PRO Marie te pesten].
  Jan   hit  the plate  to pieces  comp  Marie  to pester
  'Jan hit the plate to pieces in order to pester Marie.'
a'. Het bord werd in stukken geslagen [om PRO Marie te pesten].
  the plate  was  to pieces  hit comp  Marie  to pester
b. * Het bord viel in stukken [om PRO Marie te pesten].
  the plate  fell  to pieces comp  Marie  to pester

Somewhat more controversial data are given in (28), in which the reciprocal elkaar seems to be bound by and the supplementive naakt'nude' seems to be predicated of the implicit agent. The percentage signs indicate that not all speakers accept examples like these.

Example 28
a. % Er wordt in deze buurt op elkaar gelet.
  there  is  in this neighborhood  for each.other  watched
  'People are looking after each other in this neighborhood.'
b. % Er wordt op dit strand naakt gezwommen.
  there  is  on this beach  nude  swum
  'People swim in the nude at this beach.'

Examples such as (28) are generally considered best in generic contexts, and furthermore require there to be no other nominal argument present that could be the antecedent of elkaar or be attributed the property denoted by the supplementive, as is clear from the fact that whereas the primeless examples in (29) are ambiguous, the primed examples are not; we indicated both the binding and the predication relation by means of indices.

Example 29
a. De jongensi stelden de meisjesj aan elkaari/j voor.
  the boys  introduced  the girls  to each.other  prt.
  'The boys introduced the girls to each other.'
a'. De meisjesj werden (door de jongensi) aan elkaarj/*i voorgesteld.
  the girls  were  by the boys  to each.other  prt.-introduced
  'The girls were introduced to each other (by the boys).'
b. Jani bracht Mariej dronkeni/j naar huis.
  Jan  brought  Marie  drunk  to home
  'Jan brought Marie home drunk (=while he/she was drunk).'
b'. Mariej werd (door Jani) dronkenj/*i naar huis gebracht.
  Marie  was  by Jan  drunk  to home  brought
  'Marie was brought home drunk (while she was drunk) by Jan.'

The controversial status of the examples in (28) as well as the fact that it is impossible to establish a binding/predication relation with the (implicit) agent in the primed examples in (29) suggest that we are actually dealing with ungrammatical structures, which are nevertheless accepted by some speakers because they can readily be assigned a feasible interpretation thanks to the presence of the implicit agent. This shows that, regardless of their precise grammaticality status, the examples in (28) provide evidence in favor of an implicit agent in passive constructions.
      The implicit agent in impersonal passive constructions is preferably interpreted as +human. This is clear from the fact that (30b) cannot readily be construed as the passive counterpart of (30a); (30b) instead implies that the agent is +human. The only way of overruling this reading is by overtly expressing the -human agent by means of an agentive door-phrase, as in (30b'). We added the % sign to this example because examples like these are given as unacceptable in Pollman (1970/1975) and Kirsner (1976), but all our informants accept this example.

Example 30
a. De nachtegalen floten lustig.
  the nightingales  whistled  lustily
b. # Er werd lustig gefloten.
  there  was  lustily  whistled
b'. % Er werd lustig gefloten door de nachtegalen.
  there  was  lustily  whistled  by the nightingales

The claim that the implicit agent is preferably construed as +human also accounts for the fact reported in Haeseryn et al. (1997:1417) that speakers tend to object to the primed examples in (31): since the activities denoted by the verbs grazen'to graze' and kwaken'to quack' are normally not performed by people, a +human interpretation of the implicit agent gives rise to a semantically incoherent result. If the -human agent is overtly expressed by means of a door-phrase, these passive constructions again become fully acceptable for our informants.

Example 31
a. De koeien grazen in de wei.
  the cows  graze  in the meadow
a'. $ Er wordt in de wei gegraasd.
  there  is  in the meadow  grazed
b. De eenden kwaken in de sloot.
  the ducks  quack  in the ditch
b'. $ Er wordt in de sloot gekwaakt.
  there  is  in the ditch  quacked

Note that the preference for a +human implicit agent does not hold in constructions such as (32), in which the passive verb is transitive; these examples are fully acceptable for all speakers despite the fact that the default interpretation is that the agent is non-human.

Example 32
a. Onze eieren worden elke ochtend vers gelegd.
  our eggs  are  each morning  freshly  laid
  'Our eggs (e.g. the ones we sell) are laid freshly every morning.'
b. De sla in onze tuin wordt (door slakken) aangevreten.
  the lettuce in our garden  is   by snails  prt.-eaten
  'The lettuce in our garden is eaten away (by snails).'

      According to the more or lesss standard account of passivization in generative grammar (Jaeggli 1986 and Roberts 1987), the agent (external argument of the verb) is never left implicit but syntactically realized as the passive morphology on the passive participle; see Subsection V for more discussion. If this is correct, the semantic effects in (30) and (31) can be accounted for by assuming that the default interpretation of the passive morphology is +human. This would raise the question, however, of why we do not find a similar effect in (32). This may be related to the fact that providing the right contextual information is often sufficient to override the default +human interpretation of the implicit argument, as is clear from the following example taken from a story about sparrows from a bird journal by Adri de Groot, in which the impersonal passives are in italics (vogeldagboek.nl/html/Vogeldagboek/2002/Jun02_Lot2.html); the translation is given in the active form.

Example 33
Er werd gevreeën, gevochten, nieuwe nesten werden gebouwd, jonge vogels werden gevoederd, er werd gezongen, uitgerust.
  there  was  made.love  fought  new nests  were  build young birds  were  fed  there was sung  prt.-rested
'The sparrows mated, fought; they built new nests and fed their young; they sang and rested.'

Note in passing that the claim that the agent is syntactically expressed by the passive morphology implies that the optional door-phrase cannot be seen as an alternative realization of the agent but simply functions as an adjunct that provides additional descriptive information about the external argument expressed by the passive morphology on the participle. There is thus no syntactic rule of subject demotion that places the subject of the active clause in an agentive door-phrase in the passive construction (as was assumed in early generative grammar).

[+]  III.  Additional restrictions on the demoted subject?

Although the hypothesis that the presence of an external argument is a necessary condition for passivization seems firmly grounded, it is not clear whether the presence of an external argument is a sufficient condition for passivization. It might be that passivization requires the external argument to meet a number of additional constraints. The following subsections discuss three of such constraints that have been proposed in the literature, but conclude that there is little evidence supporting them.

[+]  A.  Animateness of the demoted subject

It is often claimed that there is an animateness constraint on passivization. According to this constraint, passivization is only possible if the subject of the active clause is +animate. Evidence in favor of such a constraint comes from examples such as (34), adapted from Pollman (1975), which show that in a passive construction such as Er werd gefloten the nominal part of the optional door-phrase must refer to a +animate entity.

Example 34
a. Jan/De ketel floot in de keuken.
  Jan/the kettle  whistled  in the kitchen
  'Jan/The kettle was whistling in the kitchen.'
b. Er werd in de keuken gefloten (door Jan/*de ketel).
  there  was  in the kitchen  whistled   by Jan/the kettle
  'Someone was whistling in the kitchen.'

A first reason for doubting that there is an animacy restriction on passivization is that passivization is possible if the -animate subject is construed as agentive. Some clear examples are given in (35).

Example 35
a. Deze dijken houden de zee tegen.
  these dikes  stop  the sea  prt.
a'. De zee wordt door deze dijken tegengehouden.
  the sea  is  by these dikes  prt.-stopped
b. Mijn computer verwerkt de gegevens erg snel.
  my computer  processes  the data  very quickly
b'. De gegevens worden erg snel verwerkt door mijn computer.
  the data  are  very quickly  processed  by my computer

A more technical problem is that it is hard to demonstrate that the inanimate subject de ketel is an external argument of the verb in (34a). The only remaining sufficient conditions for assuming intransitive status for the verb fluiten in (34b) is not met: agentive er-nominalizations normally do not denote inanimate entities—the noun fluiter'whistler' cannot be used to refer to boiling kettles; observe that this test must be handled with care given that the affix -er can also be used to derive instrumental nouns like opener'(bottle/can) opener'. Furthermore, there is some evidence that the status of the verb fluiten depends on the type of subject it takes. Section 2.2.3 has shown that the addition of a complementive to an intransitive verb also requires the addition of a second participant, which functions as the logical subject of the complementive. With unaccusative verbs, on the other hand, the number of participants remains the same since the subject of the clause itself must function as the subject of the complementive, although the subject of the complementive may replace the subject of the unaccusative verb, as is indicated by means of subscripts in (36c); something similar holds for transitive constructions, in which the subject of the complementive may replace the object of the verb, as indicated by means of subscripts in (36b). We will not discuss this here but refer the reader to Section 2.2.3, sub I and Section 2.2.3, sub II, for a detailed discussion of the generalizations in (36).

Example 36
a. intransitive verbs: NP V ⇒ NP V NP Predicate
b. transitive verbs: NP V NPi ⇒ NP V NPi/j Predicate
c. unaccusative verbs: NPi V ⇒ NPi/j V Predicate

The examples in (37) show that the question as to whether fluiten requires an additional participant depends on whether the subject of the verb is +animate or -animate. In the former case, addition of a second participant in the form of an accusative object is required, which shows that the subject is the external argument of the verb, whereas in the latter case addition of a second participant is excluded, which suggests that the inanimate subject de ketel is not the external argument of the verb.

Example 37
a. De jongen floot zijn hond naar binnen.
  the boy  whistled  his dog  inside
b. * De ketel floot de kok naar de keuken.
  the kettle  whistled  the cook  into the kitchen

Example (38a), in which the subject of the clause functions as the subject of the complementive, is not very felicitous either, but this seems related to our world knowledge rather than to grammaticality: it is simply hard to imagine that the kettle gets broken by whistling. It seems useful to note in this connection that verbs of sound emission can be used as motion verbs with a complementive PP; in the (b)-examples in (38) the subject of the clause clearly functions as the subject of the locational/directional PP, and fluiten must therefore be analyzed as an unaccusative verb; see Section 2.2.3, sub II, for more discussion.

Example 38
a. $ De ketel floot kapot.
  the kettle  whistled  broken
b. De kogel floot vlak over mijn hoofd.
  the bullet  whistled  just over my head
  'The bullet went just over my head with a whistling sound.'
b'. De vuurpijl floot de lucht in.
  the skyrocket  whistled  the air  into
  'The skyrocket went into the air with a whistling sound.'

The discussion in this subsection has shown that the animacy restriction on passivization, although appealing at first sight, is certainly not beyond doubt. It might be the case that, generally speaking, inanimate noun phrases cannot be used as external arguments unless they are clearly causative or agentive in nature. The discussion is, however, not sufficient to show that this is indeed true (see Section, sub IC, for potential counterevidence), but we would still like to suggest this as a working hypothesis for future research.

[+]  B.  Agentivity of the subject

Verbs of cognition like kennen/weten'to know' also resist passivization, despite the fact that these verbs are normally assumed to take an external argument; cf. Van Voorst (1988). In order to account for the impossibility of (39b), it is often claimed that the subject of the clause must be an agent or a cause in order to license passivization. Since the subject of (39a) clearly does not have one of these roles, the impossibility of passivization follows.

Example 39
a. Jan weet/kent het antwoord.
  Jan knows  the answer
  'Jan knows the answer.'
b. * Het antwoord wordt (door Jan) geweten/gekend.
  the answer  is  by Jan  known

Assuming an agentivity restriction on passivization meets the same objections as the animateness restriction, namely that there is little evidence that the subject in (39a) is an external argument; Section 2.1.4 has shown that the standard tests for diagnosing the external argument fail with these verbs and that it might be the case that the subject of verbs like these is actually not an external, but an internal (experiencer) argument of the verb.

[+]  C.  Controllability by the subject

A slightly weaker version of the agentivity restriction claims that passivization requires that the verb has a subject that controls the denoted activity. Examples such as (40) suggest that such a restriction does not apply either. The fact that agent-oriented adverbs like expres/opzettelijk'deliberately' yield unacceptable results in the active, primeless examples strongly suggests that subjects of verbs like luisteren'to listen' and lijden'to suffer' do not control the activities, but passivization of these verbs is possible nevertheless.

Example 40
a. Het publiek luisterde (*opzettelijk) ademloos.
  the audience  listened    on purpose  breathlessly
  'The audience listened breathlessly.'
a'. Er werd (door het publiek) ademloos geluisterd.
  there  was   by the audience  breathlessly  listened
b. Arme studenten lijden (*opzettelijk) heel wat.
  poor students  suffer     on purpose  very much
  'Poor students suffer a lot.'
b'. Er wordt (door arme studenten) heel wat geleden.
  there  is   by poor students  very much  suffered
[+]  D.  Conclusion

This subsection has discussed a number of constraints on passivization that have been proposed in the literature: the subject of the active construction must be animate, agentive, or at least able to control the event denoted by the verb. We have seen that there is in fact little evidence to support such constraints, although it still remains to be seen whether it is possible to give a syntactic account of the unacceptability of the passive constructions that motivated these constraints.

[+]  IV.  The derived subject: externalization of the internal argument?

Since passivization results in promotion to subject of one of the objects of the active verb (provided that there is one), it is sometimes claimed that one of the functions of passivization is the "externalization" of internal arguments of the active verb. This would correctly describe what is happening in the (a)-examples in (41), but seems entirely besides the point in describing the change in the (b)-examples; Section 2.2 has extensively argued that the accusative DP de kruimels'the crumbs' in (41b) is not an internal argument of the verb vegen but the subject (external argument) of the complementive PP van de tafel af'from the table'.

Example 41
a. De dokter onderzoekt Jan.
  the doctor  examines  Jan
a'. Jan wordt onderzocht (door de dokter).
  Jan  is  examined  by the doctor
b. Jan veegde de kruimels *(van de tafel af).
  Jan wiped  the crumbs     from the table af
b'. De kruimels werden (door Jan) van de tafel af geveegd.
  the crumbs  were   by Jan from the table af  wiped

The only thing that the examples in (41) show is that, in contrast to the active verb, the passive participle is unable to assign accusative case to the noun phrases Jan and de kruimels, which must therefore be promoted to subject in order to receive nominative case.

[+]  V.  The participle form of the main verb

The examples in (42) show that in passive constructions, the main verb normally takes the form of a passive participle. This has given rise to the hypothesis that it is the participle's morphology that is responsible for the demotion of the external argument and the concomitant promotion of one of the objects in (42b&c).

Example 42
a. Er wordt (door de jongens) gelachen.
impersonal passive
  there  is   by the boys  laughed
b. Het boek wordt Peter (door zijn collegaʼs) aangeboden.
regular passive
  the book  is  Peter  by his colleagues  prt.-offered
c. Peter krijgt het boek (door zijn collegaʼs) aangeboden.
krijgen passive
  Peter  gets  the book   by his colleagues  prt.-offered

Subsection II already mentioned that the standard approach to passivization in generative grammar (Jaeggli 1986 and Baker et al. 1989) is that the passive morphology on the participle actually is the external argument of the verb. The fact that the passive morphology reduces the case-assigning property of the main verb is then accounted for by assuming that the "missing" case is assigned to the external argument, that is, to the passive morphology itself. This is sometimes referred to as case absorption.
      Although this hypothesis seems to account for the majority of cases, it has been challenged on the basis of AcI-constructions such as (43), in which the infinitival clauses are headed by a transitive verb like zingen'to sing'; see, e.g., De Geest (1972), Vanden Wyngaerd (1994) and Bennis (2000). The crucial thing is that example (43a), in which all arguments of the infinitival verb are expressed, alternates with example (43b), in which the subject of the infinitival clause is demoted: it can be left out or be expressed by means of an agentive door-phrase.

Example 43
a. Jan laat [de kinderen een liedje zingen].
  Jan makes   the children  a song  sing
  'Jan makes the children sing a song.'
b. Jan laat [een liedje zingen (door de kinderen)].
  Jan makes   a song  sing    by the children

If demotion of the external argument is indeed the defining property of passivization, we should conclude that the infinitival clause in (43b) is the passive counterpart of the infinitival clause in (43a). This conclusion is also supported by the fact that the alternation is not possible with unaccusative verbs; the (a)-examples in (44) show that the alternation is possible with intransitive PO-verbs like kijken naar'to look (at)', but excluded with unaccusative verbs like verdwijnen'to disappear'.

Example 44
a. Jan laat [de dokter naar zijn wonden kijken].
  Jan  makes  the doctor  at his wounds  look
  'Jan makes the doctor look at his wounds.'
a'. Jan laat [naar zijn wonden kijken (?door de dokter)].
  Jan makes  at his wounds  look     by the doctor
b. De goochelaar laat [zijn assistente in het niets verdwijnen].
  the magician  makes   his assistant  into the nothing  disappear
  'The magician makes his assistant vanish into thin air.'
b'. * De goochelaar laat [in het niets verdwijnen (door zijn assistent)].
  the magician  makes  into the nothing  disappear   by his assistant

If we are indeed justified in considering the infinitival clauses in the primed examples of (44) to be the passive counterparts of the infinitival clauses in the corresponding primeless examples, which still needs to be firmly established, we can conclude that passive morphology is not a defining property of passivization. The question of what determines the morphological shape of the verb must then be considered an unsolved problem; we refer the reader to Section for more discussion of examples like (43) and (44).

[+]  VI.  A note on adjectival passives

Some sentences are ambiguous between a regular and an adjectival passive reading. The ambiguity is due to the fact that past/passive participles can be interpreted either as a verbal or as an adjectival element. The verbal/adjectival nature of the participle can be detected by its position relative to the verbs in clause-final position: if the participle is verbal in nature, it can either precede or follow these verbs; if the participle is adjectival, it must precede these verbs. We refer the reader to Section 6.2.2 for a more extensive discussion of the word order in the clause-final verb cluster of passive constructions.

Example 45
a. dat de bibliotheek is gesloten.
verbal passive
  that  the library  is closed
  'that the library has been closed.'
b. dat de bibliotheek gesloten is.
verbal or adjectival passive
  that  the library  closed   is
  'that the library has been closed' or 'that the library is closed (= not open)'

The two constructions also differ semantically in that the verbal passive has a dynamic reading (the verbal participle denotes an event), whereas the adjectival passive has a stative reading (the adjectival participle denotes a property of the subject of the clause). This can be made clear by adding adverbial phrases that favor one of the readings. Adverbial phrases like al jaren'for years', for instance, favor the stative reading and therefore cannot be added to (45a), which is necessarily construed as a verbal passive. This is shown in (46).

Example 46
a. *? dat de bibliotheek al jaren is gesloten.
verbal passive
  that  the library  for years  is closed
b. dat de bibliotheek al jaren gesloten is.
adjectival passive
  that  the library  for years  closed   is

Adverbial phrases like gisteren'yesterday', on the other hand, favor the dynamic reading and therefore block the adjectival reading of (45b); example (47b) can only be interpreted as a verbal passive construction.

Example 47
a. dat de bibliotheek gisteren is gesloten.
verbal passive
  that  the library  yesterday  is closed
b. dat de bibliotheek gisteren gesloten is.
verbal passive
  that  the library  yesterday  closed  is

The examples in (48) show that the adjectival reading can also be blocked by the presence of an agentive door-phrase.

Example 48
a. dat de bibliotheek door de burgemeester is gesloten.
verbal passive
  that  the library  by the mayor  is closed
b. dat de bibliotheek door de burgemeester gesloten is.
verbal passive
  that  the library  by the mayor  closed  is

The fact that the adverbial phrase al jaren'for years' and the agentive door-phrase trigger different readings accounts for the fact that they cannot be simultaneously present, as shown by the unacceptability of example (49a). Since the adverbial phrase gisteren'yesterday' and the door-phrase both favor the verbal reading, these two can readily be combined, as is shown by (49b).

Example 49
a. * dat de bibliotheek al jaren door de burgemeester gesloten/gesloten is.
  that  the library  for years  by the mayor closed/closed  is
b. dat de bibliotheek gisteren door de burgemeester gesloten/gesloten is.
  that  the library  yesterday by the mayor closed/closed  is

The adjectival passive construction is normally analyzed as a copular construction. For a more elaborate discussion of the adjectival reading of past/passive participles the reader is referred to Section A9.

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