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Advanced Grammar: Complex Passives

Advanced Grammar: complex passives

Advanced Grammar: Complex Passives

At C1 level you need to know more than the basic passive in all the tenses, so it’s time to look at how to use more complex passives. Recognising and being able to use these forms will help you do well in your Advanced Aptis test, particularly in the writing tasks.

We’re going to begin by reading some complex passives in the context of a discursive essay (a typical task in the written component of many exams, such as Cambridge Advanced and Trinity ISE III, among others).

Complex passives in context

Read this essay about nature and nurture and do the exercises below.

Nature or Nurture?

Nature versus nurture is an age-old debate that explores the origins of human behaviour. It looks at whether our traits and tendencies are primarily influenced by genetics (nature), or by our environment and upbringing (nurture). While both factors undoubtedly play significant roles in shaping who we are, the extent to which each contributes remains a subject of intense discussion.

On one hand, proponents of the nature argument emphasise the importance of genetics in determining various aspects of our identity. They argue that traits such as intelligence and personality are largely hereditary. Specific regions of the brain have indeed been shown to play a role in aspects of personality such as emotional processing, decision-making and impulse control.

On the other hand, those in favour of nurture claim that our surroundings and experiences have a profound impact on our development, and give great importance to upbringing, social interactions, education, and cultural influences. They point out that children who were brought up in supportive, stimulating environments tend to exhibit higher levels of academic achievement and emotional well-being than those raised in disadvantaged circumstances.

An extreme set of such circumstances is the case of feral children: those who have been deprived of human contact and raised by animals during their formative years. People have always been fascinated by stories of such children. Public imagination was fired by Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan of the Apes stories, and since then there have been various accounts of children being brought up by monkeys. One such example is Ugandan-born John Ssebunya, who disappeared at the age of four and was taken in by a troop of monkeys. Although they didn’t exactly look after him, they did let him stay, and responded aggressively when John was taken away, throwing stones at his rescuers.

Nevertheless, other animals have played a more active role in bringing up children. Kipling’s character ‘Mowgli’ was based on a true story about a boy raised by wolves, and more recently two girls of eight and 18 months old were also discovered living with a pack of wolves. These girls had acute senses of sight, hearing and smell, and are believed to have been fed only on raw meat. A similar case is that of three-month-old Andrei Tolstyk, who was abandoned by his parents in a remote area of Siberia with only the family guard-dog as a surrogate parent. On being discovered seven years later, Andrei was reported to have many doglike traits; he had very strong teeth, sniffed his food before eating it, and was afraid of people. In fact, all these children seemed to have taken on the traits of the animal that had ‘adopted’ them.

What can this evidence tell us? Feral children don’t even identify as human; they cannot talk, walk, socialise, or understand other people’s needs. This suggests that our upbringing is responsible for our ability to use language, to think and reason. However, this does not appear to be the case with personality. Research has shown that identical twins who have been separated at birth and raised in different environments are still far more alike than two randomly-chosen people, which points to character being affected more by genes than by upbringing.

Ultimately, it can only be concluded that it is a combination of factors during early childhood that determines the person we later become. By understanding the intricate relationship between nature and nurture, and by recognising the multifaceted influences on human development, perhaps we will be able to adopt more holistic approaches to supporting individuals in reaching their full potential.

 

Vocabulary

Find synonyms for these words in the text:

characteristics

argue

excited

sharp

substitute (n)

(Answers at the bottom of the page)

Grammar focus

Read the text again and focus on the use of the passive. You’ll see there are many different tenses and different forms (you’ll find a list of these in the answers).

Let’s begin by going back to basics. We’ll then go on to look at how to form more complex passives.

So when do we use the passive?

We use it when we want to focus attention on the person or thing affected by the action. So in this example from the text, we want to focus more on Andrei than on his parents: … he was abandoned by his parents

In the following example we don’t know who carried out the action, so again, the passive is a more natural choice: … children who were brought up in supportive, stimulating environments

We also use the passive when we don’t want to say who did it. [For example: The window got broken. In this case we often use ‘get’ instead of ‘be’.]

Another area where the passive is typically used is to describe processes. [For example: Coffee beans are dried in the sun, then roasted and ground.]

For a grammar breakdown of basic passives, look at Using the Passive.

How to use more complex passives

Look at these examples from the text and the grammar breakdown of each form:

Specific regions of the brain have been shown to play a role in …

subject + passive verb + to + infinitive

Andrei was reported to have many doglike traits

subject + passive verb + to + infinitive

These girls are believed to have been fed only on raw meat

subject + passive verb + to + passive perfect infinitive

Ultimately, it can only be concluded that it is a combination of factors …

it + passive verb + that + clause

 

These are all instances of reporting with passive verbs. The first three examples can also be expressed as in the fourth (it + passive verb + that + clause):

Specific regions of the brain have been shown to play a role It has been shown that specific regions of the brain play a role

Andrei was reported to have many doglike traits → It was reported that Andrei had many dog-like traits

These girls are believed to have been fed only on raw meat → It is believed that these girls were fed on …

Grammar Practice

Write two corresponding impersonal sentences (if possible) from these pieces of information, using it + passive verb + that + clause in one, and subject + passive verb + to + infinitive in the other.

In some cases the second pattern is not possible.

  1. We know that feral children have problems adjusting to a normal social life.
  2. We think they make more progress if they receive specialised care.
  3. We don’t recommend putting them under pressure.
  4. We believe younger feral children can usually learn to speak, given time.
  5. We have decided to publish a research paper on the subject.
  6. We don’t know when it will be published.

Next Steps

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You’ll also find loads more practice on all aspects of the Aptis tests in our Guide.

ANSWERS:

Vocabulary:

characteristics = traits,

argue = claim

excited = fired

sharp = acute

substitute = surrogate

 

Passives (in bold):

… whether our traits and tendencies are primarily influenced by genetics

Specific regions of the brain have indeed been shown to play a role in aspects of personality

… children who were brought up in supportive …

those [who were] raised in disadvantaged circumstances

…those who have been deprived of human contact and raised by animals

People have always been fascinated by stories

Public imagination was fired by Rice Burroughs

other accounts of children being brought up by monkeys.

was taken in by a troop of monkeys

when John was taken away

‘Mowgli’ was based on a true story

… two young girls were also discovered living with wolves

… and are believed to have been fed only on raw meat

Andrei Tolstyk, who was abandoned by his parents in a remote area of Siberia

On being discovered seven years later, Andrei was reported to have many doglike traits

Research has shown that identical twins who have been separated at birth …

character being affected more by genes than by upbringing.

Ultimately, it can only be concluded that

 

Grammar Practice

  1. It is known that feral children have problems adjusting to a normal social life / Feral children are known have problems adjusting to a normal social life
  2. It is thought that more progress is made if they receive specialised care / More progress is though to be made if they receive specialised care
  3. It is not recommended to put them under pressure
  4. It is believed that younger feral children can usually learn to speak, given time / Younger feral children are believed to be able to learn to speak, given time
  5. It has been decided to publish a research paper on the subject
  6. It is not known when it will be published

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