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Grammatical categories of the Verb: Voice

Voice is a grammatical category of the verb which indicates the relation between an action and its agent. It shows whether the subject is the doer of the action or whether it is acted upon. The invariant grammatical meaning of the category is perceived as the direction of the process as regards the participants of the situation being reflected in the sentence structure by the position of a subject or an object.

The voice of the verb is expressed by the opposition of the paradigmatic forms: passive voice, active voice, the first being the strong member of the opposition and expressing the reception of the action by the subjectof the syntactic structure, with the auxiliary verb ‘to be’+Past Participle. Subsequently, the passive voice shows that the person or thing denoted by the subject is acted upon, i.e. the subject is the recipientof the action: e.g. The dishes have been washed. The letters will be delivered. The active voice as a weak member of the opposition leaves the passive meaning unspecified, i.e. it implies that the person or thing denoted by the subject is the doer of the action indicated by the predicate. In other words, as a grammatical category, voice expressed in the form of the verb shows the relation between the action and its subject, pointing out in this way whether the action is performed by the subject or passes onto it: e.g. She has just tidied the room. The room has just been tidied.

It seems practical to make distinction between direct or primary passive, indirect or secondary passive, prepositional or tertiary passive. The direct voice is formed by transitive verbs where the subject of the passive construction generally corresponds to the direct object of the verb: e.g. English is normally spoken in this part of the country. The agreement will be signed within two weeks’ time. The indirect voice is based on a number of verbs which can take two objects: e.g. allow, ask, award, give, grant, leave, promise, send, show, teach, tell, etc. It should be noted that both direct and indirect are acceptable, leading, however, to some stylistic difference. Compare: A gift was given to him / He was given a gift. A job will be offered to her / She will be offered a job. Good examples were given to them / They were given good examples. The prepositional voice is used when the subject of the passive construction corresponds to the prepositional object, with the detached preposition retaining its place after the verb, as ‘laugh at’, ‘refer to’, ‘look after’, ‘account for’, ‘talk about’, ‘think of’: e.g. He has never been relied on. The children are being taken care of. He was little spoken of. Exceptional are the verbs taking two objects (direct and prepositional), such as ‘explain sth to sbd’, ‘say sth to sbd’, ‘propose sth to sbd’, ‘point out sth to sbd’. Therefore only a form of a direct passive is admitted: e.g. The situation will be explained to them. A new plan has already been suggested to them. The mistakes are always pointed out to the students.

Although the English language system demonstrates a great variety of passivised verbal forms, it is limited when it concerns non-passivised verbs, which are not capable of forming the passive voice: have, seem, appear, belong, cost, resemble, fail, turn up, come up and others.

The major problem in connection with the voice is that one of ‘medial’ voices, i.e. voice forms functioning in other than the passive or active meanings. Consider the following: e.g. He has washed and shaved just in time for breakfast. She is going to dress up for the party. We are thoroughly preparing for the exams. Having the form of the active voice, though, voice meanings do not appear to be active, as the actions are not passed from the subject to an object, but are confined to it. This kind of the verbal meaning performed by the subject upon itself is termed as reflexive. Above this, the actions expressed by the verbs are also confined to the subject in the next examples: e.g. We are meeting tomorrow. They divorced last year. They are always quarrelling over nothing. The difference is that these actions are performed reciprocally. The given reflexive and reciprocal uses of verbs must be considered as special grammatical voices called respectively reflexiveand reciprocal. The presentation of the verbal action of this type comes under the heading of the ‘middle’ voice, which shows neutralization or reduction of the voice opposition between active and passive. It stands in between them containing formal characteristics of the active and passive meanings of the verb form.

Key words:

grammatical category of Voiceграмматическая категория залога

relation between action and its agent отношение между действием и его агентом

direction of the processнаправление процесса

opposition of paradigmatic formsоппозиция парадигматических форм

passive voiceпассивный залог

active voice активный залог

direct\primary passiveпассив прямого субъекта

indirect\secondary passiveпассив косвенного субъекта

prepositional\tertiary passive пассив предложного субъекта

passivised verbs глаголы, употребляемые в пассивном залоге

non-passivised verbs глаголы, неупотребляемые в пассивном залоге

‘medial’\’middle’ voices промежуточные формы залога

reflexive voiceзалог возвратного действия

reciprocal voice залог обоюдного действия


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