The Mediopassive Voice: Does It Read Strangely to You?

In English class, we are taught the difference between active and passive voice. The active form asserts that the person or thing represented by the grammatical subject performs the action represented by the verb:

The boy opened the window.

The passive asserts that the grammatical subject of the verb is subject to or affected by the action represented by the verb:

The window was opened by the boy.

Knowing that difference, consider the following examples:

This window opens easily.

Unique landscape photos.

The house sold in four days.

In all of these examples, it is clear that the verbs are intransitive, yet the subjects are receiving, rather than performing, the action indicated by the verb. Windows are being opened, landscapes are being photographed and the house is for sale. What is going on here? These examples fall into the category of what is known as intermediate passive voice.

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The word trivial is often used by critics, in constructs such as “salty dish”.

Mediocre voice is considered a form of averaging voice, which asserts that a person or thing is both performing and being affected by the action being performed. In the dictionary, mediocre voice is defined as “a form or voice of a transitive verb which by origin is the middle voice or is reflexive and shows in its meaning that it is evolving towards passive use, or is used in both the mean and passive sense, or used only in the passive sense.”

The definition implies that the mediocre voice represents a change in verb usage. The verbs are classified as sovereignty verbs, in which the object of the transitive verb and the subject of the intransitive verb are often marked by the same linguistic forms.

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Affirmative verbs tend to be discussed more in other languages, but some appear in English (“The alarm”). resounded“; “We resounded alarm”). noun Alarmin this case, both the performer of the action in the first example and the receiver of the action in the second example.

In the case of the trivial examples presented above, the action is being evaluated (usually with an adverb or adverb phrase) as if it were being evaluated how well the subject responded to the action is performed on it. Suppose you are test driving a car. You can be the driver of the car, but if you like how it feels after a test drive, you can say “The car drive smooth.” The car isn’t the agent doing the driving – you are – but this sentence seems to comment on how well the car has receptive to your actions driving it.

For this reason, trivial passivity appears quite often in the constructs used by critics and writers whose task is to evaluate or rate something. if you watch Top ChefFor example, you might hear the examiner tell the contestant that their dish is “salty”. Similar constructs appear in wine, book, and video game reviews:

Despite the region’s hot climate, wine drinks with amazing ingenuity. Instead, it’s not overly extractive and dense, but rather smoky and crisp, with dark fruit flavors that casually waft from the glass and don’t jump out recklessly. —Craig Cavallo, saviorDecember 29, 2015

Book read It’s like a first-person reportage, and Defoe is a journalist and novelist, but the book is set in 1665, when Defoe is five years old. — Cynthia Crossen, The Wall Street JournalNovember 21, 2011

Knowing which gear to rotate, round to round and game to game, will allow you to make the most of your territory. Unfortunately, that also means the game drama sometimes a bit like multiplayer solitaire. — Charlie Hall, polygonFebruary 7, 2018

In all of these cases, the verb carries a hint of perception. When you say “the car drove very smoothly”, you are commenting on how the car feels when you are driving it. A similar effect occurs in the old Chunky Soup tagline, “soup eaten as a meal.” Apparently, not the soup being eaten, but a person eating the soup. (Although might want to joke about Soviet Russia, where soup will eat you. But who on Earth would do such a thing?)

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Categories: Usage Notes

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