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Exploring Passive Constructions

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The use of passive voice, coupled with modal auxiliaries, adds nuance and depth to the English language. This syntactic structure, involving modal auxiliary verbs, the auxiliary “be,” and the past participle form of the main verb (modal auxiliary + be + verb 3), provides a sophisticated means of expressing various shades of meaning. This article delves into specific constructions, such as the passive infinitive (“to be done”), possibility in the past in passive voice (using “might have” or “may have”), and the expression of advice in the past with “should have been.” Understanding these structures not only enhances one’s grasp of English grammar but also enriches the ability to communicate with subtlety and precision.

PASSIVE + MODAL AUXILIARIES

Form:

modal auxiliary + be + verb 3

The report must be sent by tomorrow

PASSIVE INFINITIVE

Form:

to be done

Please go away! I want to be alone.

POSSIBLILITY IN THE PAST IN PASSIVE

Form:

might have / may have + been + verb 3

  • It expresses what was possible in the past
  • Might is less possible than may

The box is empty. Someone may have stolen its content may have been stolen.

ADVICE IN THE PAST

Form:

should have + been + verb 3

  • It expresses was was advisable in the past but it did not happen

You look terrible. You should have been examined at the hospital yesterday

As you can see, the mastery of passive voice with modal auxiliaries opens up a realm of expressiveness in English that goes beyond mere grammatical correctness. Whether conveying a sense of urgency, probability in the past, or reflecting on past advice, these constructions provide a flexible and nuanced approach to communication. The ability to employ modal auxiliaries with precision in passive structures not only demonstrates language proficiency but also enhances one’s capacity for effective and articulate expression.