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Passive voice or participial adjective? Options
ThisIsFlaco
Posted: Monday, August 20, 2018 5:13:34 PM
Rank: Newbie

Joined: 6/7/2013
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Neurons: 1,610
Hi all,

I'm having trouble with a couple of sentences:

African elephants are easily recognized by their trunk.
African elephants are divided into two species.


I originally took these to be passive voice examples with "recognized" and "divided" as the main verbs in the sentences. However, a colleague said the main verb is BE.

Help?

Cheers,

F
thar
Posted: Monday, August 20, 2018 5:19:57 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 7/8/2010
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Only my untrained opinion, but

I think these are passive verbs. People divide them up, and people recognise them.

You can put it into the past tense, or other verbs:
They were divided into two groups by early researchers
They can be recognised - people can recognise them

ALso, they are not 'divided elephants' or 'recognised elephants'.

(although they might be recognisable elephants)


But, as the song goes....

in the end, it doesn't even matter

There is a grey area, were the actions done to something and a description of its state cannot be disentangled. It is not a coincidence the the adjective commonly looks exactly the same as the past participle! Whistle

If an exam asks you to do this - well, you have to. But it is a silly exam that does. If it is for your own learning - I think the thing to learn is that there are passives, adjectives and everything in between!
Just my opinion, though.

(edited a little bit - hope it makes sense)
NKM
Posted: Monday, August 20, 2018 6:24:20 PM

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Without more context, it is essentially pointless to try to distinguish the grammatical structure of these sentences.

If the discussion was about taxonomy, then I'd have to agree with Thar that they are passive-voice constructions. But if it was an article about elephants, I think your colleague was right that the main verb is "be" and what follows it in each case is an adjective — in which case "recognized" might better be given as "recognizable".

Wilmar (USA) 1M
Posted: Monday, August 20, 2018 7:57:35 PM

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Based on the Farlex grammar lessons, the main verb in each sentence is "be".

ThisIsFlaco
Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2018 12:17:39 AM
Rank: Newbie

Joined: 6/7/2013
Posts: 4
Neurons: 1,610
Thanks everyone for replies.

Here is the paragraph where the sentences appear. It's from a website called Wild Republic:

The Largest Land Animal

African elephants are the world's largest land animals. Herds of these great beasts wander through 37 countries in Africa. They are easily recognized by their trunk that is used for communication and handling objects. Their ears are very large- larger than those of Asian elephants. These big ears allow them to radiate excess heat. African elephants are divided into two species – savannah elephants, and forest elephants. Savanna elephants are larger than forest elephants, and their tusks curve outwards. The African savanna elephant is found throughout the grassy plains and bush lands of the continent, while the African forest elephant lives the equatorial forests of central and western Africa.


Thanks,

F

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, August 21, 2018 3:46:28 AM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 34,067
Neurons: 222,398
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Hello.

The form of each sentence is passive -
African elephants are easily recognized by their trunk.
African elephants are divided into two species.

Subject + be + past participle + (various modifiers)

The form of each sentence is copular (using BE as the main verb.
African elephants are easily recognized by their trunk.
African elephants are divided into two species.

Subject + BE + subject complement + (various modifiers)

The meaning is the same. Both forms use exactly the same words, in the same sequence.

If you wish to add an agent - "African elephants are divided, by zoologists, into two species" - then you can treat the sentence as passive.
If you are describing elephants, you may choose to treat the sentence as saying what elephants ARE (with the main verb 'BE').

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