Passive Voice of Modal Verbs

Essay by ivan013University, Bachelor's October 2009

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IntroductionThe aim of this work is to show how the combination of modal auxiliary verbs and passive voice is used in English language.

As examples of the language, I have decided to use two totally different sources of text. The first one, Thomas Harris’s Hannibal, is a thriller fiction for adult readers. The book uses American English. The second book, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, uses British English and its readers are mainly children, so in my opinion, the language should be simpler to be understood. On the other hand, American English is known for its tendency towards simplicity of the language. It would be interesting to see the contrasts (if any) between these two books. Both books consist of approximately five hundred pages what gives adequate amount of material to be analysed.

Naturally, I would not only be dealing with the differences between British and American English, or between adult and children literature, but my field of study will also include reasons why passive voice was used instead of active, what is its connection with modal verbs and in what structures do they co-occur.

The research findings should also correspond with the theory of the grammatical background, but the known fact is that pragmatic English does not always agree with theoretical English. If any differences are found, they will be mentioned in the conclusion.

To boot, this seminar work should help teacher explain modal verb and passive voice connections that appear in everyday language, as well as give more examples of such structures in case the instances are insufficient when teaching this topic.

Grammatical background to modal verbs and passive voiceModal auxiliary verbsDefinitionFirstly, we should define what modal auxiliaries are and what is their function. Modals are auxiliary verbs that function not only grammatically, but they also carry some additional meaning that they add to a lexical verb. This supplementary meaning usually expresses speaker’s attitude towards reality.

DivisionFour groups of modals are distinguished:1.central modalsWe recognize nine central modal auxiliary verbs that express modality: can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would and must. These central modals are finite, do not have -s form when a noun is in the third person singular and always have to be followed by bare infinitive or verb phrase as they do not carry full lexical meaning. They all have three forms: nonnegative, uncontracted negative and contracted negative. However, contracted negative forms of may (mayn’t) and shall (shan’t) are relatively rare and even nonexistent in American English. In addition, Biber (1999, 485) groups modal according to the time they refer to, thus he distinguishes between modals that refer to non-past time (can, may, shall, will) and modals that can refer to past time (could, might, should, would).

2.marginalsFour marginal modal verbs exist in English: need, dare, ought to and used to. These modal verbs do not have all the features of central modals. Used to takes the to-infinitive and is only present in the past tense (the contracted negative form usedn’t is possible). Ought to has the to-infinitive as well (ought not to can be contracted to oughtn’t). Dare and need may function either as modals (with bare infinitive, without inflections) or as full verbs (with to-infinitive and inflected -s, -ing or past form).

3.modal idiomsModal idioms combine auxiliary verb and infinitive or adverb. They have no nonfinite form and are the first verb in verb phrase. The most frequent idioms are had better, have got to, be to and would rather.

4.semi-modalsSemi-modals are made by the means of primary verbs have and be. They have nonfinite form and are preceded by auxiliary verbs. Semi-modal phrases like have to, be supposed to, be likely to, be going to, be due to, be bound to, be about to, be able to, be obliged to, be willing to are somewhat common in the language.

There is also a special group of fixed phrases called catenatives. Catenatives are not modals, but they have a similar meaning to that of modal auxiliary verbs considering the marking of modality. Happen to, appear to and seem to are all catenatives.

MeaningModal verbs have several meanings. They may express permission, possibility, ability, obligation, necessity, volition or prediction. One modal verb has more meanings and expresses different functions.

“I can hear what she’s saying to somebody.”(ability)“Can I have a piece of paper, please?”(permission)“I can pick you up from over here.”(possibility)Each modal auxiliary can also have deontic (intrinsic) or epistemic (extrinsic) meaning. The first type refers to events that are controlled by humans (or other agents), whereas the second refers to events, states or judgments that are, or are not, likely to happen. Some modal auxiliaries overlap both the deontic and epistemic modality meanings.

“You cannot mark without a scheme. You must make a scheme.”(intrinsic)“In other cases his decisions will seem more radical.”(extrinsic)Passive voiceDefinitionVoice is one of the categories of the verb. We differentiate between active and passive voice. Passive voice can be used only in sentences which contain transitive verb. In case that the sentence has more than one object, every one of them can become the subject of the passive structure. When changing the active sentence into the passive one, the active subject becomes the passive agent, the active object becomes the passive subject and the preposition by can be optionally added to introduce the real agent of the action.

UsagePassive voice is used in these situations:1.when the agent of the action in unknown, unimportant or generally obvious,“My office was broken into when I was on holiday.”(unknown)“These boxes should be handled with care.”(unimportant)“She is being treated in hospital.”(obvious) academic, factual or technical writing to omit the agent,“Nuclear waste can be stored as a liquid in stainless-steel containers which are encased in concrete.” avoid responsibility,“It has been decided to reduce all salaries by 10 %.” emphasise the agent,“Jack won the prize.” - “The prize was won by Jack.” put long subject expressions at the end of a sentence,“I was surprised by Don’s decision to give up his job and move to Sydney.” put old information at the beginning of a sentence or clause,“The three machines tested for the report contained different types of safety valve. The machines were manufactured by the Boron Group in Germany.” report some piece of information.

“It has been acknowledged that underfunding is part of the problem.”Using modal auxiliary verbs with passive voiceModal auxiliaries are always finite and followed by passive present (be verb+ed participle) or past (have been verb+ed participle) infinitive. Passive infinitive states that the subject of the sentence is not the agent of the action denoted by the infinitive. Present infinitive refers to present or future, whereas past infinitive refers to past when used with modal auxiliary verbs.

“It must be done that way.”(present passive infinitive)“It must have been done that way.”(past passive infinitive)Passive voice with the presence of modal verbs is rare in general conversation, but occurs widely in academic writing.

According to corpus findings stated in Biber (1999, 499), will, would and shall are rare with passive voice as they frequently express volition or prediction of the agent of the main verb. On the other hand, can and could are very common in passive structures where they denote logical possibility and occur in short agentless passives or in passives with a nominalized process given in the by-phrase. In academic prose, must and should are commonly used, mainly because of their ability to express obligation.

Research1.Central modalsa)Present / future referenceCANIn Italy, Australia is considered an attractive alternative where jobs can be found, and it has a large Gypsy population.

The other gate is built like a Dutch door, so the top and bottom halves can be opened separately.

The mirror, its frame carved with cherubs, can be tilted to provide an overhead view of the pen, as a cooking-school mirror provides the pupils with an overhead view of the stove. Dr Lecter thinks he can be swept through with the herd, as long as the herd accepts him. But Memory Charms can be broken by a powerful wizard, as I proved when I questioned her. The full list comprises some four hundred and thirty-seven items, I believe, and can be viewed in Mr. Filch's office, if anybody would like to check it. The Imperius Curse can be fought, and I'll be teaching you how, but it takes real strength of character, and not everyone's got it. "I don't reckon it can be done," said Ron's voice flatly from the other side of the table. No, I haven't actually seen him, but I think I can be trusted to know my own superior's handwriting. Pigs are harder to get hold of than men and big ones are stronger than a man and they cannot be intimidated with a gun.

COULDNow, should the universe contract, should time reverse and teacups come together, a place could be made for Mischa in the world. "I'm coming over there. I could be deputized and go with the reactive squad." He could be blamed. Even if they were good and hungry, sixteen pigs could not be expected to consume Dr Lecter in his entirety at one seating. They could not be tightened now. Frank was nearing his seventy-seventh birthday now, very deaf, his bad leg stiffer than ever, but could be seen pottering around the flower beds in fine weather, even though the weeds were starting to creep up on him, try as he might to suppress them. "It could be done without Harry Potter, My Lord." Voices could be heard from inside the blocked fireplace. Lynch, however, hit the ground with a dull thud that could be heard throughout the stadium. The buzz of chatter filling the Hall ceased almost at once, so that only the howling wind and pounding rain could be heard. And in no time at all, hundreds upon hundreds of pairs of feet could be heard passing the tent, their owners talking excitedly, laughing, joking... "Come off it," said Harry, looking around to check that they couldn't be overheard, but the grounds were quite deserted.

MAYIt may be defined for laymen as the act of posturing as a wise and caring patron to further a private agenda. Human destiny may be deciphered by the planetary rays, which intermingle...

MIGHTBut in our case, they, just might be satisfied with poultry.

The latter method was a more satisfactory spectacle, but the recreation might be cut short if a piece of marrow went to the heart.

What might be learned from Dr Lecter's computer?Dunno what happened to her...might be dead fer all I know...

Harry had the impression they thought that Ron and the little girl might be dead, but they were wrong...

Don't you think you might be prejudiced in her favor because of Hagrid?SHOULDIn fact, there is no consensus in the psychiatric community that Dr Lecter should be termed a man.

It is unfair but inevitable that music in Florence should be judged by the hopelessly high standards of the city's art.

“I think Agent Starling should be questioned privately,” he said.Harry would have dearly loved to have said, "So what?" but he didn't feel that Uncle Vernon's temper should be tested this early in the morning, especially when it was already under severe strain from lack of food.

Well, that should be fooled by an Aging Potion, shouldn't it? Giggling should be made illegal, Harry thought furiously, as all the girls around Cho started doing it.

"I don't think that eye should be allowed." "I merely thought," said Snape, in a voice of forced calm, "that if Potter was wandering around after hours's an unfortunate habit of his...he should be stopped. Snape loved taking points from Harry, and had certainly never missed an opportunity to give him punishments, or even to suggest that he should be suspended from the school. Albus Dumbledore should surely consider whether a boy such as this should be allowed to compete in the Triwizard Tournament. Looks as though those two shouldn't be mixed.

WILLAn FBI spokesman said Agent Starling will be relieved of field duties with pay pending the outcome of the FBI's internal investigation. In addition-in addition you will be audited by the Internal Revenue Service and your situation reviewed by the Bureau of Immigration and . . . and Naturalization. Listen to me then - we'll come out the front entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Via dei Leoni side will be closed. There is Camicion de' Pazzi, who murdered a kinsman, and he is expecting the arrival of a second Pazzi-but it's not you-it's Carlino, who will be placed even farther down in Hell for treachery and betrayal of the White Guelphs, the party of Dante himself.

You can stack the odds in your favor, but if you get into enough gunfights, you will be killed in one. Possibly it will be included in the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. When the history of Hannibal Lecter is written, and it will be, this will be recorded as a case of Doemling's avunculism. You will be escorted from the building.

An FBI spokesman said Agent Starling will be relieved of field duties with pay pending the outcome of the FBI's internal investigation. They will be obsessed with security, lest the Muggles notice anything. "You may rest assured that she will be punished," Mr. Crouch added coldly. Only students who are of age -- that is to say, seventeen years or older -- will be allowed to put forward their names for consideration. "Our Care of Magical Creatures teacher will be delighted to take care of them," said Dumbledore, "the moment he has returned from dealing with a slight situation that has arisen with some of his other -- er -- charges." "It will be attended to," said Dumbledore, also bowing. They will be marked on how well they perform each of the Tournament tasks and the champion with the highest total after task three will win the Triwizard Cup. The champions will be chosen by an impartial selector: the Goblet of Fire.

The goblet will be placed in the entrance hall tonight, where it will be freely accessible to all those wishing to compete. "I will be delighted to hear the reasoning behind the rudeness, Rita." "Dress robes will be worn," Professor McGonagall continued, "and the ball will start at eight o'clock on Christmas Day, finishing at midnight in the Great Hall. Now then -- " "Well, you'd better hurry up, mate, or all the good ones will be gone," said Fred. "Dobby will be missed -- good luck, Harry Potter, sir, good luck!" "The champions will be notified of what is coming precisely one month beforehand. Thank you all for your support of the champions." The Triwizard Cup will be placed in the center of the maze. "Very well, Karkaroff, if that is all, you will be returned to Azkaban while we decide -- " "It will be put to the vote," said Mr. Crouch coldly. When Azkaban is broken open, the Lestranges will be honored beyond their dreams. He will be allowed to fight, and you will be left in no doubt which of us is the stronger. I will be honored beyond all other Death Eaters. He is returned to power and I will be honored by him beyond the dreams of wizards.

I tell you now -- take the steps I have suggested, and you will be remembered, in office or out, as one of the bravest and greatest Ministers of Magic we have ever known. Better he shows up for the meeting, then he probably won't be missed for two weeks. "I will not be spoken to like that!" said Uncle Vernon, trembling with rage.

WOULDJack Crawford would be delighted with the letter and so would the postal authorities and the lab. It was here she came on her first FBI assignment, when she was still a trainee, still believed everything, still thought that if you could do the job, if you could cut it, you would be accepted, regardless of race, creed, color, national origin or whether or not you were a good old boy. La Nazione would be pleased to have hounded him to death. He assumed the call would be traced. The man could disappear too well, and Pazzi would be left with nothing. Lecter would be sustained on a saline drip overnight, awaiting the next course. The first course would be prepared at table, and accordingly he organized his alcohol burners, with his copper fait-tout, his saucepan and sauté pan, his condiments and his autopsy saw. Privet Drive looked exactly as a respectable suburban street would be expected to look in the early hours of Saturday morning. Every now and then, sparks would fly out of the end of a skrewt, and with a small phut, it would be propelled forward several inches. "My dear Madame Maxime, if you have an alternative, I would be delighted to hear it."Harry, would be questioned about Sirius's whereabouts. Reluctant though he was to accept more favors from Cedric, he also decided to use the prefects' bathroom; far fewer people were allowed in there, so it was much less likely that he would be disturbed. Harry would be forewarned if somebody was approaching the bathroom.

She told me that the Triwizard Tournament would be played at Hogwarts this year. He was dreading the Leaving Feast, which was usually a cause for celebration, when the winner of the Inter-House Championship would be announced. Carlo had told Rinaldo Pazzi he would commence with the beanbag gun, which was charged and ready, but if he got a chance to put the hypodermic anywhere in Dr Lecter's buttocks or legs, the beanbag would not be needed. It contains a number of preparations that would not be found in the general dispensary downstairs, the powerful sedatives and exotic sedative- hypnotics that make possible open-heart surgery and brain surgery on an aware and responsive patient. Then he said, Wormtail wouldn't be fed to the snake -- there was a snake beside his chair.

MUSTHis arrangements had long been made, but now the alert must be given. It must be said that 911 got all but one digit of the false license plate right. Describe, with examples, the ways in which Transforming Spells must be adapted when performing Cross-Species Switches. Hagrid is providing a number of creatures...then there will be spells that must be broken...all that sort of thing, you know. Come, the niceties must be observed...Dumbledore would like you to show manners...Bow to death, Harry... All those that we can persuade of the truth must be notified immediately, and he is well placed to contact those at the Ministry who are not as shortsighted as Cornelius. "There is somebody else who must be mentioned in connection with Cedric's death," Dumbledore went on. "I am talking, of course, about Harry Potter."b)Past referenceCOULDThe police left the noose in place until it could be fingerprinted, and then cut the stout electrical cord in the center of the noose to preserve the integrity of the knot.

THE BEAUTY of the pneumatic rifle was that it could be fired with the muzzle inside the van without deafening everyone around it - there was no need to stick the muzzle out the window where the public could see it. Cordell rigged slip-knot tourniquets just above each knee with cords that could be pulled behind the fence to keep the doctor from bleeding to death. There were no wipe marks on the bullets from a silencer, but a silencer could not be ruled out. Krendler could not be insulted when his interests were at stake. Finally, when the sun had risen, when his bedroom walls had turned gold, and when sounds of movement could be heard from Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia's room, Harry cleared his desk of crumpled pieces of parchment and reread his finished letter. Grinning faces could be seen under those that had their flaps open. It could have been handled better. You could have been killed.

MAYHe was a stocky older man with a built-up shoe that clopped, and an eastern European haircut that may have been done at home.

MIGHT"Do you think, Starling, he might have been interested to see if you'd rat him out when he sent you a letter of encouragement?" It might have been encrusted with diamonds. "Then Mr. Crouch's son might not have been involved?" said Harry slowly.

SHOULDHe should have been named Appall.

WOULDYou would have been wasted just like John Brigham. Otherwise she would have been summoned to the justice Department rather than the Hoover Building.

In any case, awkward questions would have been asked if she had gone back to the Ministry with the news that she had met you on her holidays. Krum, whom Harry would have thought would have been used to this sort of thing, skulked, half-hidden, at the back of the group. Fleur bent down, kissed Harry twice on each cheek (he felt his face burn and wouldn't have been surprised if steam was coming out of his ears again), then said to Ron, "And you too -- you 'elped -- "MUSTPlans must have been changed after the blueprints were filed.

2.Marginalsa)Present / future referenceOUGHT TO"You is ought to be ashamed of yourself, Dobby, talking that way about your masters!" Harry took the hint and sat down next to Percy, who was wearing brand-new, navy-blue dress robes and an expression of such smugness that Harry thought it ought to be fined.

b)Past referenceN/A3.Modal idiomsa)Present / future referenceBE TOAnything extended from the windows would have caught Starling's instant attention - she was wary of Crip revenge but silent ogling is to be endured.

b)Past referenceBE TOYet how could anyone think that, when he was facing competitors who'd had three years' more magical education than he had -- when he was now facing tasks that not only sounded very dangerous, but which were to be performed in front of hundreds of people?4.Semi-modalsa)Present / future referenceHAVE TOIf you have to be kidnapped for ransom, wealthy Italians will tell you, it's better to fall into the hands of the Sards. "She's the one that has to be paid at once."BE SUPPOSED TOThe injection was supposed to be diffused by a major muscle mass. "I want to know how she's listening into private conversations when she's supposed to be banned from the grounds!" said Hermione angrily.

BE LIKELY TOHowever, they enjoyed themselves trying to make Hagrid tell them what the tasks in the tournament were going to be, speculating which of the entrants were likely to be selected as champions, and wondering whether Fred and George were beardless yet.

BE GOING TOHis dinner's going to be ruined if he doesn't come home soon. "Harry, this isn't going to be kept quiet," said Hermione, very seriously.

b)Past referenceHAVE TOThe great sleek swine, when faced with Haitian conditions, died as soon as possible and had to be replaced again and again from Mason's stock until the Haitians replaced their own pigs with hardy little rooters from the Dominican Republic. Call-ins from individual liquor stores using the telephone number on the bulletin had to be entered by hand. Then I had to be concealed. I had to be controlled.

BE SUPPOSED TOThe injection was supposed to be diffused by a major muscle mass.

BE GOING TOHe had heard Voldemort accusing Wormtail of making a blunder...but the owl had brought good news, the blunder had been repaired, somebody was Wormtail was not going to be fed to the snake...he, Harry, was going to be fed to it instead... "The way he talks," Harry muttered as he hobbled out of the Defense Against the Dark Arts class an hour later (Moody had insisted on putting Harry through his paces four times in a row, until Harry could throw off the curse entirely), "you'd think we were all going to be attacked any second." He was going to be armed with his wand -- which, just now, felt like nothing more than a narrow strip of wood -- against a fifty-foot-high, scaly, spike-ridden, fire-breathing dragon. Harry had no sooner torn off Sirius's reply than it took flight, clearly afraid it was going to be sent outside again.

ConclusionThe easiest way how to sum up findings of the research is to answer the questions and hypotheses in the introduction by means of listing.

1.What are the differences between American and British English in passive voice containing modal verb constructions? When discussing the presence of passive voice between these two types of English, passive voice occurs in greater amount in British English (77 occurrences). 57 sentences were of American origin.

2.Is passive voice predominant in literature for children or in literature for grownups?My hypothesis that passive voice is less used in books that are focused mainly on juveniles seems to be incorrect. No differences in the frequency of passive voice usage were found. As it was mentioned before, more passive voice sentences were found in Harry Potter than in Hannibal.

3.Why was passive voice used instead of active?In the grammatical background, seven situations in which passive voice is suitable were noted: when the agent of the action is unknown, unimportant or obvious; in academic writing; to avoid responsibility; to emphasise the agent; to put long subject at the end of clause or sentence; to put older information at the beginning of clause and when something is reported. In 98 out of 134 cases, the reason of passive voice was unknown, unimportant or generally obvious agent. The emphasis of agent was the second most frequent situation in which passive voice was used. Other types of usage are relatively rare.

4.Which modals are mostly used with passive voice?Answering this question is easy. The most frequent were central modals. In Harry Potter, 67 sentences with central modal verb were observed. Contrarily, two marginals and only one modal idiom occurred. Situation is similar in Hannibal, where 47 sentences were using central modals, one sentence with modal idiom was found and none of the sentences contained marginal modal. Semi-modals occurred 7 times in Harry Potter and 9 times in Hannibal.

5.What time do passive modal structures refer to most often?Majority (about 85 %) of central modal referred to present time. In other groups, such extreme difference was not observed or the difference was slight.

6.Are there any disputes between theory and praxis?No disputes were noticed. Findings are fully compatible with grammatical theory.

Bibliographies:Biber D., Johansson S., Leech G., Conrad S., & Finegan E. (1999). Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English. London: Longman., Harris T. (1999). Hannibal. New York: Random House, Inc., Hewings M. (2002). Advanced Grammar In Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press., Quirk, R., Greenbaum, S., Leech, S., & Svartvik, J. (1985). A comprehensive grammar of the English language. London: Longman., Rowling J. K. (2000). Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury., Vince M. (1994). Advanced Language Practice. Oxford: Heinemann.