Lesson: UNEXPLAINED PHENOMENA (C1-C2)

5. Look at this extract from the text

…it was initially rumoured that the Utah Bureau of Land Management was behind the removal of the piece…

  • Who was responsible for the rumours?
  • Does it matter who started the rumour?
  • Can you find a similar grammatical construction in the second half of the text (as copied below)?

Lewis later posted a short video of the monolith on Instagram as proof that he was indeed responsible for its removal. In the accompanying text, he explained that he had been concerned about environmental damage to the area, but conceded that he thought the object itself was a beautiful piece of art. Intriguingly, he also claimed to have saved the metal sculpture from complete destruction by another group of adventurers.

It is understood that Lewis and his friends have donated the remaining part of the structure to the Bureau of Land Management, in return for avoiding any further legal action.

Of course, none of this helps to address the original question of how, and why, the monolith came to be in this part of the desert.

Answers can be found here.

6. Passive Reported Speech (and thought)

Here are some quick rules for two ways that you can put reported speech or thought into the passive.

Type 1: starting with “It”

  1. It is thought that several men were involved in the crime.
  2. It has been proposed that the new road will go through several inner-city neighbourhoods.
  3. It is widely accepted by climate scientists that human activity contributes to climate change.
  4. It was commonly believed in mediaeval Europe that disease and famine was caused by witchcraft.

Notes:

  • This grammar form is used in formal speech or writing to report a belief or thought.
  • It can be used with various reporting verbs including believed, thought, stated, said, suggested, proposed, claimed, supposed, assumed, understood.
  • The following clause is usually started with that and can be in any tense and in either active or passive voice.
  • This form can be used when we don’t know who is doing the speaking or thinking (sentence 1) or to hide responsibility (sentence 2: this sounds like a controversial proposal, and the proposer hasn’t been named). It is often used when talking about beliefs that are, or were, commonly held in society (sentence 4).
  • We can add a group of people as the subject (climate scientists in sentence 3).
  • We can add a time period or place (mediaeval Europe in sentence 4).
  • Often we add a qualifying adjective to make clear it wasn’t believed by 100% of people (widely accepted, commonly believed).

Important:

  • This form only works with some reporting verbs. You won’t often hear or read It was denied, because the person doing the denying is usually important enough to name.
  • It also doesn’t work with verbs that need a human as an object e.g. told, warned, informed.

Exercises for Type 1 sentences

  • Put these sentences into the passive form, starting with ‘It…’.
  • a. People often say that cats are secretly plotting to take over the world.
  • b. On the Pacific island of Tanna, many islanders believed that Prince Philip (of the UK) was a god.
  • c. Various scholars have suggested that some Shakespeare plays were not actually written by Shakespeare.
  • d. Some of his fans have stated that Elvis Presley is still alive and has been spotted in various places in the USA.
  • e. Journalists reported numerous times in the 1980s that the actor Abe Vigoda had died, causing him to make jokes about the subject up until his actual death in 2016.
  • Finish these sentences from your own knowledge or imagination
  • f. It is widely believed that…
  • g. It is often erroneously assumed that…
  • h. It used to be thought that…
  • i. Although it may sound surprising, it can truthfully be said that…
  • j. It has recently been reported that…

Type 2: starting with the object

  1. Several men are thought to have been involved in the crime.
  2. The proposed new road is said to be opposed by a majority of local residents.
  3. Climate change is increasingly believed to result from human activity.
  4. Lashana Lynch is tipped by some film fans to be taking over from Daniel Craig as the next James Bond.

Notes:

  • As with Type 1, this grammar form is quite formal and is used when we don’t know, or have a reason to conceal, the person or people doing the saying or thinking.
  • Only a few reporting verbs fit into this grammar pattern, e.g. said, thought, believed, accepted, tipped, expected, considered, reported.
  • Similarly to Type 1, qualifying adverbs are often used before the reporting verb.
  • The following clause starts with an infinitive, most often to be (in the present) and to have been (in the past). Other verbs are possible (as in sentence 3). The only possible tenses in the following clause are present simple, present continuous, present perfect and present perfect continuous. Active or passive voice can be used.
  • It’s sometimes possible to include the subject, like some film fans in sentence 4.
  • In other cases, where the sentence sounds awkward, you can either leave out the subject, or convert to an active sentence. For example: Climate change is increasingly believed by scientists to result from human activity is correct grammar but sounds unnatural. Compare this with sentence 3, where I omitted the subject, to create a much more natural sentence (but with a difference in meaning). The other option would be to convert it back to an active sentence: Scientists increasingly believe that climate change results from human activity.

Exercises for Type 2 sentences

  • Put these sentences into the passive form, starting with the underlined words.
  • k. People often say that the Amazon rainforest produces 20 percent of the world’s oxygen.
  • l. It was reported that a Croat called Jure Grando attacked and killed villagers for years after his death in 1656.
  • m. People believe Grando was the first person to have been described in writing as a vampire.
  • n. There is a widespread expectation that populism will become a stronger political force in Europe in the next decade.
  • o. In past centuries, people believed that much disease was caused by poor air quality.
  • Now write five sentences of your own. If you like, decide together with your study partner on how to start each sentence (e.g. with the names of famous people or places in your country).

A note on other passive forms in reported speech:

For the sake of completeness, I should mention that there are a range of other passive forms that are used with reporting verbs, including those that don’t fit into the two types of sentence above. I would like to highlight one of these possible forms.

With verbs such as suggest, propose, moot, another possible form is object + passive verb form + as. For example:

  1. Seamus O’Reilly was proposed by Daffyd Williams as the next Chairman of the society and was duly elected by members.
  2. Lashana Lynch has been named by some film fans as a possible future James Bond.
  3. Christopher Marlowe has been mooted by some scholars as a possible author of some works which are normally attributed to Shakespeare.

Answers to the exercises on this page can be found here.

Now go to the bottom and click on ‘Page 3’ of this lesson.

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