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Ask-A-Linguist Message Details
|Subject:||Passive Voice and Children|
|Question:||How old are children when they begin to comprehend passive verbs? Specifically, when are they able to correctly parse the relation between actors and verbs so that, given the sentence ''The lion was being chased by the tiger,'' they know that the tiger was doing the chasing?|
|Reply:||it depends. There are several types of passives. Most passives in natural conversation do not have overt agents, and most full passives are nonreversible, meaning that if the subject and object were switched, the resulting sentence would be unacceptable. A full passive such as you used is therefore quite rare. I don't know the exact age at which they're mastered, but I can tell you that even adults have problems processing them.|
|Reply From:||Susan D Fischer click here to access email|