April 20, 2012

Passive Voice

This article discusses the Hindi passive voice.

The subject of a passive verb, or a verb in the passive voice receives the action of the verb. The subject of an active verb, or a verb in the active voice performs the action of the verb.

Form of the English Passive Voice

In English, as passive verb is formed by combining a form of the verb “to be” with the participle of a transitive verb (usually a past participle).

Examples

“The ball was thrown”

“The food is being cooked”

Form of the Hindi Passive Voice

In Hindi, passive verbs are formed by combining a perfect participle with a form of जाना. The structure of Hindi passive verbs is therefore as follows:

[perfect participle] [form of जाना]

The perfect participle agrees with the subject in number and gender. The auxiliary verb (जाना) agrees with the subject in person, number, and gender, and also inflects according to tense, aspect, mood, etc.

Examples

गेंद फेंका गया – “The ball was thrown”

The verb is फेंका गया, which is the perfect participle फेंका plus a form of जाना (गया).

किताबें बनायी जा रही थीं – “The books were being made”

The subject किताबें is feminine and plural. Therefore the perfect participle बनायी is feminine and plural, and the verb जा रही थीं is feminine and plural. The past progressive form of the verb जाना was used.

खाना पकाया जा रहा है – “The food is being cooked” (NOTE: Hindi speakers don’t use the passive voice as much as English speakers do. Hindi speakers might prefer an intransitive verb like पक रहा है, etc.)

Relationship to Active Sentences

Active sentences are related to their corresponding passive sentences. The subject of the active sentence becomes the agent of the passive sentence, and is marked by a postposition. The object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence.

For instance, in English:

“The boy threw the ball” becomes “The ball was thrown by the boy”. The subject of the active sentence (“boy”) becomes the agent in the passive sentence, marked by the preposition “by” (“by the boy”). The object of the active sentence (“the ball”) becomes the subject of the passive sentence.

In Hindi, however, it is quite uncommon for a passive sentence to mention an agent. This is because Hindi speakers generally only employ the passive voice when the agent is unknown or irrelevant. If the agent is known or relevant, then the active voice is almost always used.

The agentive postpositions which mark the agent of a passive verb in Hindi include के द्वारा and के हाथों.

Examples

किताब उस व्यक्ति के द्वारा लिखी गयी – “The book was written by that person” This is an awkward sentence in Hindi though.

वह दुश्मन के हाथों मारा गया – “He was killed by the hands of the enemy”

Thus, in Hindi, generally the agent is not mentioned in passive sentences. The subject of the corresponding active sentence is therefore omitted, and the object of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence.

Example

मैं फोन का इस्तेमाल कर रहा था – “I was using the phone”

फोन का इस्तेमाल किया जा रहा था – “The phone was being used”

Examples in Various Conjugations

The passive voice can be used in almost any tense or mood.

Present Habitual

Active: मैं यह खिड़की खोलता हूँ – “I open this window”

Passive: यह खिड़की खोली जाती है – “This window is opened”

Past Habitual

Active: मैं यह खिड़की खोलता था – “I used to open this window”

Passive: यह खिड़की खोली जाती थी – “This window used to be opened”

Present Progressive

Active: मैं यह खिड़की खोल रहा हूँ – “I am opening this window”

Passive: यह खिड़की खोली जा रही है – “This window is being opened”

Past Progressive

Active: मैं यह खिड़की खोल रहा था – “I was opening this window”

Passive: यह खिड़की खोली जा रही थी – “This window was being opened”

Future

Active: मैं यह खिड़की खोलूँगा – “I will open the window”

Passive: खिड़की खोली जाएगी – “The window will be opened”

Past

Active: मैंने यह खिड़की खोली – “I opened this window”

Passive: यह खिड़की खोली गयी – “This window was opened”

Present Perfect

Active: मैंने यह खिड़की खोली है – “I have opened this window”

Passive: यह खिड़की खोली गयी है – “This window has been opened”

Past Perfect

Active: मैंने यह खिड़की खोली थी – “I had opened this window”

Passive: यह खिड़की खोली गयी थी – “This window had been opened”

Subjunctive Mood

Active: क्या मैं यह खिड़की खोलूँ – “Should I open this window?”

Passive: क्या यह खिड़की खोली जाये – “Should this window be opened?”

Presumptive Mood

उसने यह खिड़की खोली होगी – “He must have opened this window”

यह खिड़की खोली गयी होगी – “This window must have been opened”

Compulsion Idioms

Active: मुझे यह खिड़की खोलना है – “I have to open this window”

Passive: यह खिड़की खोली जानी है – “This window has to be opened”

Active: मुझे यह खिड़की खोलनी चाहिए – “I should open this window”

Passive: यह खिड़की खोली जानी चाहिए – “This window should be opened”

The compulsion idiom involving पड़ना is never used with passive verbs.

Notes about Hindi Passive Verbs

A few notes are instructive.

Passive Forms With Intransitive Verbs

In English, intransitive verbs generally cannot have passive forms, since the object of the active verb becomes the subject of the passive verb, and intransitive verbs have no objects.

In Hindi, intransitive verbs may sometimes be used to form passive verbs, however. If an intransitive verb is used passively, the verb will be neutral (masculine singular).

Examples

Active: हम लोग ज़मीन पर बैठते हैं – “We site on the ground”

Passive: ज़मीन पर बैठा जाता है – “(We) sit on the floor” – Literally “The floor is sat upon”

Special Form of जाना

When the verb जाना is the main verb of a passive verb, the special perfect forms जाया/जाए/जाई are used instead of गया/गए/गयी.

Example

यह खाना घर ले जाया जाना है – “This food has to be taken home”

सब्जियाँ दुकान से ले जाई गयी – “The vegetables were taken from the store”

Direct Objects of Passive Verbs

In active sentences, a postposition is sometimes used to mark the direct object of the verb (most often को), especially when the object is animate. In the corresponding passive sentence, the postposition को may be used or may be omitted. If it remains, it will “block” agreement with the verb, and the verb will default to the third person masculine singular form.

Example

Active: मैंने तुम्हारी सास को देखा – “I saw your mother-in-law”

First Passive: तुम्हारी सास देखी गयी – “Your mother-in-law was seen”

Second Passive: तुम्हारी सास को देखा गया – “Your mother-in-law was seen”

Thus, two passive forms exist for such sentences.

Instrumental Postposition से

The postposition से is used to indicate the instrument that performs an action in Hindi passive sentences. This is similar to agentive postpositions such as के द्वारा and के हाथों. The difference is that agentive postpositions indicate an agent who performs an action, whereas से as an instrumental postposition indicates an instrument which performs an action.

यहाँ कपड़े मशीनों से धोये जाते हैं – “Here clothes are washed by machines”

Nominal Conjunct Verbs

When a nominal conjunct verb is used in the passive voice, the verb agrees with the nominal element (the noun of the conjunct verb). The nominal element functions as the subject of the verb in such cases.

Example

उसकी मदद की जाएगी – “She will be helped”

Inherently Passive Intransitive Verbs

Many intransitive verbs in Hindi have meanings which are inherently passive, such as पकना (“to be cooked”).

Such words cannot appear in passive constructions, since such constructions would not make sense. Thus, for instance, खाना पका गया is not correct.

As a result, there exist two kinds of passive constructs in Hindi:

1. An intransitive verb with a passive meaning

खाना पक रहा है – “The food is being cooked”, or “The food is cooking”

खाना पक गया – “The food got cooked”

2. The corresponding transitive verb in a passive construction:

खाना पकाया जा रहा है – “The food is being cooked”

खाना पकाया गया – “The food was cooked”

These two kinds of sentences are very similar, but there is a subtle difference. Intransitive verbs with passive meanings express an action with no reference to any actor, whereas passive verbs imply that some unspecified agent performs the action of the verb.

Example

खाना जला – “The food was burned”

खाना जलाया गया – “The food was burned [by someone]”

Furthermore, another nuance may differentiate these two types of constructions: intransitive verbs may indicate an accidental action, whereas passive transitive verbs may indicate an intentional action.

Example

खाना जला – “The food was burned [accidentally]”

खाना जलाया गया – “The food was burned [intentionally]”

Expressing Inability with Passive Verbs

Passive verbs may express inability or incapacity. In such usages, the agent is always included and marked with से. These sentences are always negative sentences since they express inability.

मुझसे नहीं रोका गया – “I couldn’t stop (something)”

Intransitive verbs may likewise be used to indicate inability:

उससे यह काम नहीं होता – “He cannot perform this work”

उससे यह काम नहीं किया जाता – “He cannot perform this work”

Note that है was dropped from the end of the sentence because नहीं was used with a present habitual verb.

These two previous examples may exhibit a subtle difference: the intransitive verb may indicate unwillingness versus inability.

Active Use of The Passive Voice

A common idiom in Hindi is to use passive verbs with an active meaning, especially with the subjunctive mood when asking questions. Consider the following examples:

खाया जाये? – “Shall we eat?”
कमरा साफ़ किया जाए – “Should we clean the room?”
पराठे खाए जाएं – “Should we eat some parathas?”