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'impart', 'instill' and the use of their passive form Options
maltliquor87
Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 11:29:43 AM

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Location: Moscow, Moscow, Russia
Hi, dear forum members.

In English, some verbs are not as flexible as others when it comes to the use of their passive form. Let me illustrate this with a few examples.

1. The verb 'tell'.

a) Students expect to be told what kind of conduct may result in their expulsion.
b) Such stories have been told many times.

The verb "tell" in its passive form works regardless of whether the subject of a sentence refers to human-beings or signifies inanimate objects.

2. The verb "impart"

a) This wisdom is imparted to teenagers who are willing to pay heed and capable of deep thinking.
b) They want to be imparted this knowledge.

In this instance, the verb "impart" does not seem to work when we are dealing with its passive form and the subject refers to human-beings, as in the example "b". The same logic goes for the verb "instill", although the following might also work: "they want to be instilled with this knowledge".

If the sentence in red does not work, what tweaks should be made without changing "they" as the subject of that sentence? The verb "have" comes to the rescue and the sentence becomes:

c) They want to have this knowledge imparted to them.

Again, the same logic goes for the verb "instill" in addition to the workaround mentioned above.

This post is meant as my observation on a minor aspect of grammar that receives short shrift in popular grammar books I've looked through. For example, in M.Swan's book very little is said about it. He mentions that "explain" and "suggest" cannot be used in a certain passive structure and presents two grammatically incorrect sentences to warn about possible problems with the use of these verbs.

I've gotten interested in this subject since I saw a non-native speaker with otherwise good English skills write something along the following lines: "They want to be imparted this knowledge". I'd like you to consider what I've written above. If I'm wrong in my reasoning, let me know, please. If you want to add or correct something, I'll be happy to read your suggestions.
Parpar1836
Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 11:51:38 AM
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Location: Rochester, New York, United States
One possibility is "If you want this knowledge imparted to you . . ."

It can also work as an imperative: "Impart this to me now, please!"

maltliquor87
Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 11:57:22 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 11/29/2017
Posts: 204
Neurons: 70,378
Location: Moscow, Moscow, Russia
Thanks.

Yes, this is shorter than "...want to have this knowledge imparted to...". So the verb "have" is optional if not redundant in this context.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 12:21:09 PM

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Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
I think (pretty sure) that the difference is between transitive and ditransitive verbs.

Ditransitive verbs can have two objects (and may have an object and a prepositional object-phrase)
He told the knowledge.
He told me the knowledge.
He told the knowledge to me.


Transitive verbs can only have one object (but may have a prepositional object-phrase).
He imparted the knowledge.
He imparted the knowledge to me.

He imparted me the knowledge.

In the passive, it's similar:
The knowledge was told.
I was told the knowledge.
The knowledge was told to me.

The knowledge was imparted.
The knowledge was imparted to me.

I was imparted the knowledge.

***************
'Instill' is another different subject. It's transitive.
You instil knowledge IN someone.
You don't instil someone knowledge.

So it works like 'impart' except that the preposition used is 'in'.

**************
What you will find 'normal English speakers' do, when they come up against trying to make a sentence like "They wanted to be instilled with the knowledge by him" is . . . just say what they mean.
They don't even think about passives and transitives and tenses. If 'instil' doesn't work in a simple sentence, they will use the verb which does work.

"They wanted to be instilled with the knowledge by him" - Nah!
They wanted him to tell them.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
maltliquor87
Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 12:32:57 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 11/29/2017
Posts: 204
Neurons: 70,378
Location: Moscow, Moscow, Russia
Thank you for your detailed response, Drago.

As far as "to be instilled with" is concerned, I just found the following quote from no less literary a source than The New Yorker :)

Quote:
With his gleeful, dumb stare, Gritty was like some overgrown, empty humanoid vessel, waiting to be instilled with knowledge of this world...
https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/how-the-left-won-the-war-for-gritty


I guess this construction is rare in spoken English and most people hardly see themselves using it in their speech.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2019 1:34:05 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 32,078
Neurons: 193,869
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
It's not only "rare in spoken English", it's not used in spoken or written English by anyone who knows the word.

It's derived from a word (Latin) meaning "to pour slowly, drop by drop".
Someone does not pour YOU slowly in the knowledge. They may 'pour the knowledge slowly into you'.

They instil the knowledge into you.

They do not instil you the knowledge.

Of course, The New Yorker . . .d'oh!

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
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