17

If I have a transitive verb with one object, passivizing an active sentence is straightforward. For example, "te amo" becomes "(a me) amaris".

But how to passivize a verb that has two objects? For example, can "te rem doceo" be passivized into "tu rem doceris" or "te res docetur"? If only one of the objects can be turned into the subject of a passive clause, which one is it?

It seems to me that if either passivization is correct, a verb could have a subject, an object and an agent at the same time ("tu rem doceris a me"). I am under the impression that if I only have one object for a verb that could take two, I can passivize normally: "te doceo" becomes "doceris" and "rem doceo" becomes "res docetur".

I don't recall this issue being ever discussed in my Latin grammars.

6

According to Bennett's New Latin Grammar, #178, the recommended approach when making these constructions passive is to make the person the (nominative) subject and to retain the thing in the accusative. (See also this blog post)

Thus, in your example:

te rem doceo

becomes

rem a me doceris

and

Me sententiam rogavit

becomes

Sententiam rogatus sum ab eo.

In the same section, though, it notes that not all double accusative verbs permit this kind of passive construction. I advise looking for usage examples on an ad hoc basis if you are curious about a particular word.


Some notes about previous answers:

You're confusing the direct and the indirect object.

Actually, no: as mentioned in the comments, words of teaching, inquiring, or even concealing (such as doceo, posco, celo, or rogo) can take two direct objects: a so-called double accusative. There is no indirect object (dative) in the OP's original question.

Concerning @C. M. Weimer's answer, I agree that "tu rem doceris" is correct, but I want to emphasize that "te res docetur" is an awkward and incorrect way of using the passive, since (according to the grammar link I posted above) it requires us to think of res as the person taught and te as the thing taught.

  • Is there any verb with two objects that can be passivized with respect to either one? If not, is there a verb that can only be passivized with respect to the "inanimate object"? Your answer gives me the impression that if there are two objects, one of which is typically a person and the other something else, I can typically passivize with respect to the "person object". You don't mention explicitly whether the other passivization is ever correct. – Joonas Ilmavirta Feb 28 '16 at 19:22
  • 1
    According to the grammar I referenced, "In the Passive construction the Accusative of the Person becomes the Subject, and the Accusative of the Thing is retained." In addition, only some verbs admit this construction. I have never seen an example of the inanimate object being made the (nominative) subject, but then again--never say never in Latin! – brianpck Feb 28 '16 at 19:52
  • I haven't seen any previous answers but you are confusing the direct and indirect object. The difference between DO and IO is semantic: DO is the patient (person or thing directly affected or controlled by the agent), whereas IO is the recipient (indirectly affected or partially controlled by the agent). – Alex B. Apr 7 '16 at 14:41
  • Not sure I understand your comment--are you saying that I am confusing the DO and IO? My point in quoting the (since deleted) answer was simply that the IO is a non-factor in the OP's question. – brianpck Apr 7 '16 at 14:48

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