digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















The impersonal passive voice, sometimes called pseudo-passive voice, is a verb voice that decreases the valency of an intransitive verb (which has valency one) to zero.[1]:77

The impersonal passive deletes the subject of an intransitive verb. In place of the verb's subject, the construction instead may include a syntactic placeholder, also called a dummy. This placeholder has neither thematic nor referential content. (A similar example is the word "there" in the English phrase "There are three books.")

The deleted argument can be reintroduced as an oblique argument or complement.

Test of unergative verbs[edit]

In most languages that allow impersonal passives, only unergative verbs may undergo impersonal passivization. Unaccusative verbs may not. The ability to undergo this transformation is a frequently used test to distinguish unergative and unaccusative verbs. In Turkish, for example, the verb çalışmak "to work" is unergative and may therefore be passivized:

Burada çalış-ıl-ır.
here work-PASS-PRESENT
Here it is worked.
'Here people work.'

The verb ölmek "to die", however, is unaccusative and may not be passivized:

*Burada öl-ün-ür.
Here it is died.
'Here people die.'
Here it is alive.



The Dutch impersonal passive can be seen in the following sentences.[1]:76–7

[De jongens]s fluiten.
the boys whistle
"The boys are whistling."
Er wordt ([door de jongens]) gefloten.
there becomes by the boys whistled
"There is whistling (by the boys)."


German has an impersonal passive voice, as shown in the examples below:

Active Voice:

Die Kinder schlafen.
"The children sleep."

Impersonal Passive Voice:

Es wird geschlafen.
It is slept.
"Someone is sleeping."

In the latter example, the subject (Die Kinder, "the children") has been deleted, and in its place is the dummy es "it".

The sentence can be constructed without an overt subject by placing an adverbial in the first position:

Heute wird geschlafen. Dort wird geschlafen.
Today is slept. There is slept.
"Someone is sleeping today. Someone is sleeping there."


Venetian has the Impersonal passive voice, also called intransitive passive, since it is built from intransitive verbs. The verb parlar "to speak" is intransitive and takes an indirect object marked by a "to" or by co "with": although there is no direct object to be promoted to subject, the verb can be passivized becoming subjectless, i.e. impersonal. The usual auxiliary "to be" is employed, in the form xe "is" (with zero-dummy) or in the form gh'è "there is" (with gh'-dummy) depending on the local variety.

Xe stà parlà co Marco?
has DUMMY been spoken to Mark? = has someone spoken to Mark?
(Literally) "Is been spoken to Mark?"
Xe stà parlà de ti or Gh'è stà parlà de ti
DUMMY has been spoken about you = someone spoke about you
(Literally) "Is been spoken about you" or "there is been spoken about you"

Likewise, the verb tełefonar "to phone / to ring up" takes a dative indirect object in Venetian (marked by a "to"), still it is often used in the impersonal passive:

Xe stà tełefonà a Marco?
has DUMMY been phoned Mark? = has someone rung up Mark?
(Literally) "Is been phoned to Mark?"

Differently from German, the subject can be introduced only with the active voice:

Gavìo parlà co Marco?
have you spoken to Mark?
(Literally) "Have-you (pl.) spoken to Mark?"


Latin also has the impersonal passive voice, the most notable example being the phrase (by Virgil)

Sic itur ad astra.

It is translated "thus one goes to the stars" (i.e. "such is the way to immortality") or "thus you shall go to the stars" but the word itur is the passive form of ire ’to go’ in the third person singular, so its literal meaning could be rendered like "this is how it gets gone to the stars."

Similarly, Saltatur is literally the third person singular passive form of the verb saltare ’to dance,’ and it means "they (or: people) are dancing." Pugnatum est is a perfect passive form of the verb pugnare ’to fight’, so this form means "they were fighting" or "the fight was going on".

Another example is the answer to the question Quid agitur? (approx. "what's up?", lit. "what is being done?") in a play by Plautus: Vivitur, approx. "not too bad", literally: "one is alive" or more precisely, "it is being lived", from the impersonal (intransitive) verb vivere (’to live’).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dixon, R. M. W. & Alexandra Aikhenvald (1997). "A Typology of Argument-Determined Constructions. p. 71–112 of Bybee, Haiman, & Thompson (1997). In Bybee, Joan, John Haiman, & Sandra A. Thompson (eds.)(1997). Essays on Language Function and Language Type: Dedicated to T. Givón. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impersonal_passive_voice — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
464 videos foundNext > 

Passive Voice: Part II.© UPV

Transformación de una oración en voz activa con dos objetos, uno de persona y otro de cosa. La pasiva impersonal con verbos tales como "se cree", "se piensa"...

Passive Voice - English Lesson

In this English lesson, we will be looking at how to formulate and use the Passive Voice. Passive Voice Exercises: http://youtu.be/ye3-vJkO0A8 For more help ...

Passive voice and impersonal sentences

la voz pasiva con ser, el se pasivo, el se impersonal.

Learn Spanish Impersonal and Passive se

Learn Spanish impersonal se and passive se. How to use impersonal se in Spanish. Using verbs in Spanish with impersonal se and passive se. Spanish verbs with...

Spanish Lesson: Passive Se vs. Impersonal Se

In this video I talk about the difference between the passive se and impersonal se in Spanish. Here's the link I promise in the video: https://docs.google.co...

Lesson on the passive voice and the impersonal and passive "se"

Tone: personal/impersonal, active/passive, in rules writing

Almost no one wants to read rules. And rules are, after all, a set of instructions. Try to use a friendly, personal tone to make the task less like reading a...

02 How to use Impersonal Se / Passive Se in Spanish

SUBSCRIBE for more Spanish videos: http://bit.ly/XGe7we Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/srjordanspanish Tweet me: https://twitter.com/senorjo...

Spanish Lesson: Impersonal / Passive Construction with Se

This video covers the Impersonal Construction with Se. I will quickly explain it and give you a chance to check for understanding at the end. Thanks! Be sure...

Using the IMPERSONAL SE in Spanish

A quick lesson demonstrating the uses of the IMPERSONAL SE and the PASSIVE SE in Spanish. The impersonal se can only bein the singular form. The passive se c...

464 videos foundNext > 

We're sorry, but there's no news about "Impersonal passive voice" right now.


Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Talk About Impersonal passive voice

You can talk about Impersonal passive voice with people all over the world in our discussions.

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!