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English and Russian passive forms are different both in type of form constructions and in frequency.

English passive voice is used more frequently due to the various types of construction it occurs in. Whereas Russian passive voice construction is formed only by transitive verbs requiring a direct object when used as an active voice structure, English passive is classified into four types of construction:

a) direct passive: A book was given to him. It has a corresponding Russian passive voice form: Книга была дана ему.

b) indirect passive: He was given the book. This form is translated by the corresponding Russian active voice verb in the impersonal sentence: Ему дали эту книгу.

c) prepositional passive: The article was not referred to. – На эту статью не ссылались. The corresponding Russian impersonal sentence is also with the active verb.

d) adverbial passive: The room hasn’t been lived in. When translated into Russian, the passive construction is substituted by an active one, sometimes a subject of the sentence is introduced: В комнате никто не жил/не живет.

Thus, only one type of English passive construction has a direct correspondence in Russian. But not all English direct passive constructions can be transformed into Russian passive, since the verb transitivity in English and Russian does not coincide. Cf. to enter the room – войти в комнату, to join the party – вступить в партию, to follow somebody – следовать за кем-то, to attend the meeting – присутствовать на собрании, to influence somebody – влиять на кого-то: The next morning this event was reported by all the papers. – На следующее утро об этом событии сообщили все газеты.

Care should be taken when translating English parallel passive verbs, since they may correspond in Russian to the verbs of different cases: He was trusted and respected. – Ему доверяли и его уважали. In this case the Russian sentence requires repetition of the pronominal object (ему – его); otherwise, the sentence would sound grammatically incorrect (*Ему доверяли и уважали).

As for passive forms, there are two types in English: be-passive and get-passive. The latter is mostly used to indicate the starting point of the action: They got married. – Они поженились. The get-passive is also used to express negative connotation, when the object of the action undergoes something unpleasant or dangerous:124 He got hurt. – Он ушибся. (Он обиделся.) He got injured in a road accident. – Он получил травму во время дорожной аварии.

In Russian there are also two passive verb forms. They derive from the parallel synthetic and analytical forms: строился – был построен. The difference between the forms is either semantic or stylistic. As for their meanings, the analytical form denotes a state, whereas the synthetic form expresses a process: Дом был построен этой бригадой. – Дом строился этой бригадой. In English this difference is rendered by the Simple and the Progressive forms, respectively: The house was built by this team. – The house was being built by this team. When no agent of the action is mentioned, the Russian synthetic verb form can be substituted in English by the prepositional noun predicative: Мост строится с прошлого года.The bridge has been under construction since last year. Or the difference between the forms can be stylistic: while the analytical form is used in literary or academic works, the synthetic form in colloquial speech can also denote a fact, not a process, thus corresponding to the English The house was built by this team.

As for the synonymy of the indefinite personal active and passive forms in Russian, the difference lies in style: the passive form is more formal: George was invited to spend the month of August in Crome. – Cf. 1) Джордж был приглашен провести август в Кроуме. 2) Джорджа пригласили провести август в Кроуме.

One challenge of translating is the English “double passive”. It takes place when the main predicate is used in the passive voice and the following infinitive is also passive: The treaty is reportedto have been signed by both parties. In translation, the predicate can be substituted by the active verb: Сообщают, что договор уже подписан обеими сторонами. The principal clause can also be substituted by a parenthetical one: Как сообщают, договор уже подписан обеими сторонами. Or the passive infinitive can be substituted for the active one, so that the sentence subject turns into the sentence object: The prisoners were ordered to be shot. – Было приказано расстрелять пленников. Finally, there might be a substitution by the noun: The music is intended to be played on the piano. – Музыка предназначена для игры на фортепьяно.


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