Meaning of category of Voice

The category of Voice expresses relations between the subject and the object of the action or between the subject and the action.

The opposition of the passive form of the verb to the active form of the verb expresses the voice of the English Verb. Eg: writes – is written. The passive form is the strong member of the opposition. On the plane of expression it is marked by the combination of the auxiliary be with the Past Participle of the notional verb. The agent may be expressed in the sentence and it’s usually introduced with the help of the preposition by. Ex. The book is written by a young writer.

The sentence with the passive voice may include a means of the action, which is introduced, with the help of the conjunction with. Ex. The book is covered with a newspaper.

The category of voice has a much broader representation in the system of the English verb than in the system of the Ukrainian verb, since in English not only transitive but also intransitive verbs can be used.

The demarcation line between the passivized and non-passivized set is not rigid, and the verbs of the non-passivized set may migrate into the passivized set in various contexts. Ex. The bed has not been slept in. The house seems not to have been lived in.

Sometimes the opposition between 2 forms may be reduced. It means that the verb may be used in the Active Voice form with the meaning of the Passive Voice.

Some verbs which are usually followed by an object (to sell, to cut, to wash) can be used without an object and take on a passive meaning. In this case, the person carrying out the action of the Verb is not referred to. Ex. This book sells well, ie it is sold to many people. The dress washes/irons well, ie it is easily washed/ironed. This material makes up nicely into suits, ie it can be used by the tailor for making suits. The butter spreads easily, ie it can be spread easily. The bread is cutting badly because it’s very soft, ie to cut the bread is difficult. Other tenses may also be used. The book sold well. The dress has washed well. The material will make up nicely.

Note: the verbs are followed by adverbs in the above examples. It is also possible to omit the adverb, if the meaning is clear. This is often the case in the question form and in the negative. Eg: The book didn’t sell, so it wasn’t reprinted. The dress is very pretty. Will it wash? The material should make up into a winter dress, shouldn’t it? Butter won’t spread when it’s been in the fridge. Will the bread cut? If not, try the other knife.

There are some other verbs of this sort, with the nouns (subjects) that they are often used with in this construction

(A car) drives, steers

(A boat) sails

(A clock) winds up

(A door) locks, unlocks

(A book) reads well / easily, ie the book is good / easy to read.

Large native cigarettes smoked easily and coolly. The lion chops will eat better than they look.

Besides there 2 Voice some authors speak of some more Voice forms. The most popular are the Reflexive Voice and the Reciprocal Voice and the Middle Voice. Ex. She dressed herself. They helped each other.

The reflexive and reciprocal pronouns should be looked upon as the voice auxiliaries. Such word combinations are treated as analytical verb forms of the Reflexive or Reciprocal voice . However, we can’t agree to the idea, because:

1. The reflexive/reciprocal pronouns preserve their lexical meaning but auxiliaries in analytical forms loose their meanings.

2. There are syntactic relations between the components. The reflexive / reciprocal pronouns are objects to the verbs. We can prove this by using homogeneous objects. Ex. He dressed himself and his brother. They praised one another and all the quests. He defended himself, a victim of the situation.

Hence, such word combinations are free word combinations. As for the Middle Voice, some authors find it when comparing the following sentences: Ex. He opened the door.-The door opened.

The Middle Voice uses are cases of neutralizing reduction of the voice oppositions. Ex. He broke the ice.The ice broke.

The verbs are active in form, but passive in meaning. Ex. She was delightful to look at, witty to talk to.

Another case of neutralization: You are mistaken (Passive in form, but active in meaning). It expresses a state.

The forms of the Active Voice can’t be opposed and it there is no opposition we can’t speak of any special grammatical category. In sentences like “the door opened” we should speak of medial verbs in the Active Voice.

Category of Tense

Traditional grammar speaks of 16 tense forms in English but actually there exist only 4 of them. The matter is that when speaking about an action we express its primary characteristics of tense but then it may be necessary to show the character of the development of the action or to compare the action with some other one and then in such cases the primary tense category is modified by some other verb categories such as aspect (continuous or non-continuous), perfect (perfect or non-perfect).

So we get complex analytical forms, which express not one category of tense but a number of them. Ex. If we analyze such forms, as “is reading” we should say that this verb expresses Present Tense and continuous aspect. Hence the modification of the category of Tense by the category of aspect brings about the appearance of 16 verb forms.

When speaking about the category of tense, we should remember that we distinguish different tense forms on the basis of some opposition. But in a number of cases these oppositions may be reduced. It means that morphological form typical of one tense may express the meaning of some other tense. We usually observe it in definite contexts.

Ex. The form of the Present Tense may express the meaning of the Past, Future Tense in subordinate clauses of time and condition (If I see him tomorrow I will ask him to do it for you).

Besides the Present Tense may be used to express an action planned for the Future especially with verbs of motion.

When dealing with the category of tense we should touch upon one more problems, which is typical of English. The problem is known as the Sequence of Tenses. In English if the predicate verb in the main clause of a complex sentence is used in the past tense, the predicate verbs in the subordinate clauses can be used in the present or future tenses. The Present Tense is replaced by the Past Tense modified or not modified by the Perfect and the Future Tense is replaced by the Future-in-the-Past.

The Sequence of Tenses is explained by many traditional grammars as a mechanical shift of tenses. However, this explanation can’t be treated as adequate. No mechanical shift takes place.

In the events in the main and subordinate clauses are simultaneous, then the same tense forms are used. If the events of the subordinate clause precede the events of the main clause, than the predicate verb in the subordinate clause is modified by the Perfect.

In the actions the subordinate clause follow the events of the main clause, then the predicate verb takes the specific form in the Future-in-the-Past.

We observe this correlation of events only when the starting temporal center is in the Past.

But if the starting point is in the Present, no sequence of tenses is observed and we use any tense form in the subordinate clause or clauses, which is required by the logical sequence of events. So what we mean by the traditional term Sequence of Tenses that is in reality sequence of events is nothing but a synthesis of two categorical notions:

1) The category of tense which expresses the relation of the action to some moment of time.;

2) The category of perfect, which expresses the relation of actions to each other.

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