"suffering passive"... In English!

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Joined: Tue 04.19.2005 2:17 pm

"suffering passive"... In English!

Post by InsanityRanch » Fri 05.13.2005 2:08 pm

OK, maybe this is not the place for this and if so, the moderator can shut it down but...

My Japanese teacher (who is sometimes my English student) asked me about a sentence like, "he got his suitcase stolen". I realized this was the English version of the Japanese oddity sometimes referred to as the suffering passive (naninani wo -rareru), and I promised to bring some good examples next week.

HAH! The more I think about this, the squirrelier (is that a word) it becomes. I am beginning to think that the Japanese form is MUCH less confusing than what we do in English.

Someone stole his suitcase --> His suitcase was stolen --> He got (or had) his suitcase stolen. Cool. Seems simple.

Someone shot his dog --> His dog was (or got!) shot --> .... um, oops.

He HAD his dog shot makes me think he asked someone else to shoot his dog. NOT the same meaning. He GOT his dog shot makes me think he did something that caused someone to retaliate by shooting his dog.

Someone drank my beer! (another common example used to illustrate the suffering passive) --> My beer was drunk? Not really. My beer got drunk? um, I don't think so. Let alone "I got my beer drunk"... That one doesn't even sound like native English!

I find myself in a quagmire here. was versus got for the simple passive and then, if you try to plug the suffering party back into the subject slot, it gets squirrelly. The more examples I think of, the crazier it seems. So far I haven't been able to come up with rules that are even remotely useable for turning a simple declarative sentence (someone verbed his thingamabob) into this sort of tricky passive formation. And I thought I spoke English!

Does anyone know of an article discussing this construction?

"Give me a fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself." -- Vilfredo Pareto

Posts: 43
Joined: Sat 03.05.2005 11:54 am

RE: "suffering passive"... In English!

Post by kossori » Fri 05.13.2005 3:52 pm

You would never use that kind of english....Ever...
Those are what you call, Sentence Fragments.

"He got his suitcase stolen" is a sentence fragment, sometimes used by native english speakers because it is easier to say, knowing we can finish the rest: "by someone". However, even using the archaic verb "got" is incorrect english. You would use: "He had his suitcase stolen by someone."

We use a lot of Sentence fragments while talking, just like the japanese. It is because we subconciously can make the correction.(if you have had enough schooling).

I would advise that you or your teacher not use fragments such as those. If you were talking to someone, lets say of a higher social status, you would be thought uneducated, and/or stupid.(sorry if offend)

[ Drunk is a noun or verbal adjective, it cannot be used as a verb. ]
Who drank my beer.
Someone drank my beer.
Who was it that drank my beer.
My beer was consumed by someone.

His dog was shot (by someone)or(for some reason)
His dog had been shot.
Last edited by kossori on Fri 05.13.2005 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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