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Is the use of the word "been" in the following sentence necessary or proper?

The arbitration between the claimant and the respondent has already been concluded.

Someone has been editing my paper and keeps inserting "been" into the sentence, and I am trying to figure out who's right.

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Thank your unknown editor for knowing the difference between active and passive constructions. And perhaps, if you plan to do more English writing, it would be a good idea to learn it yourself. – John Lawler Jan 28 '13 at 16:50
@JohnLawler That's a harsh judgment from a man who writes so cunningly about ergativity. – StoneyB Jan 28 '13 at 17:35
Ergativity is part of grammar, but not much of a part of English grammar; just a few odd constructions. On the other hand, Passive is a big deal in English grammar, and the question shows no understanding of the construction, and is posed as if been is just an adverb having something to do with completion, which is totally off the wall. – John Lawler Jan 28 '13 at 17:38
What @John said. The title clearly indicates that OP sees only the possibility that the word "been" may be present or not. But in reality it's just a matter of whether the arbitration has been / was concluded. Which I think is General Reference. – FumbleFingers Jan 28 '13 at 18:44
Have you considered asking this at ELL? – Mitch Jan 28 '13 at 19:41

Your example as presented is certainly grammatical and there is no need on grounds of grammar alone to remove been. It is a present perfect passive construction formed by the present tense of have + the past participle of be (been) + the past participle of the main verb (concluded). Conclude is used here with the general sense of bringing a transaction to an end.

Whether you omit been depends on the context and the meaning you’re trying to convey. The passive construction in this case doesn’t tell us explicitly who was responsible for the conclusion of the arbitration. It doesn’t say, for example ‘The arbitration between the claimant and the respondent has already been concluded by those concerned.’ However, it does perhaps leave us with the impression that the claimant and the respondent were involved in some way, even though an arbitration, by its nature, is normally conducted principally by a third party. If, on the other hand, you say ‘The arbitration between the claimant and the respondent has already concluded’ you are using conclude intransitively to mean ‘To come to a close or end; to close, end, finish, terminate’. In doing so, you are putting yourself at some distance from the action, and being even less committed to saying who was involved in the process.

Both are grammatical, so you really need to discuss with the other person what meaning and emphasis the sentence is intended to convey. Much will depend on the nature of the arbitration, who was involved in it, and how much you want to say about their involvement.

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Thank you for the answer. Just to clarify the situation, should it make any difference, I am writing a legal brief. I am making the point that the legal proceeding that was commenced in a Court to stay and enjoin an arbitration proceeding is moot, since the arbitration proceeding has (or has been) concluded. Thus, it makes no difference who, how or why the proceeding ended, just that it has ended. With that that context in mind, I was wondering if using the "been" is proper. – David W Jan 28 '13 at 19:11
As I said, what you have written is grammatical. However, if you're writing a legal brief, shouldn't you consult a lawyer? – Barrie England Jan 28 '13 at 19:15
I am a lawyer, as is the person who edits my brief, and I think we both have a decent command of the English language and rules, but neither of us are experts. That's why I asked. Thanks once again. – David W Jan 28 '13 at 19:33
Of course you're experts. All native speakers are. – Barrie England Jan 28 '13 at 20:23
@Robusto. Do lawyers ever forget to sue? (Yes, it is, strange though it may seem.) – Barrie England Jan 28 '13 at 22:11

You can certainly write

The arbitration between the claimant and the respondent has already concluded.

No been. It's the difference between active and passive voice.

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Conclude is an ergative verb: that is it, it may be used either transitively or intransitively, just like its synonym end:

The concert ended/concluded prematurely, because of rain. (intransitive)
Rain ended/concluded the concert prematurely. (transitive, active voice)
The concert was ended/concluded prematurely by rain. (transitive, passive voice)

Conclude is a little bit different in your context, however. An arbitration ends when the parties settle between themselves, or when the arbitrator renders a decision—which may also be called a judgment or a conclusion.

Your editor may therefore feel uncomfortable with your intransitive use, which implies that the hearing ‘ended itself’. Since you do not name the agent of the conclusion, your editor casts it impersonally in the passive.

It’s a very minor matter; it doesn’t really affect the meaning or, frankly, the stylistic impact. That’s what editors do; and it’s a small price to pay to get your paper published. Pick your battles.

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Ah, I see what you were talking about now. I wouldn't use the term Ergative here, though. It's too question-begging and this phenomenon doesn't have many of the usual characteristics of ergativity. Why bring up ergativity at all? English has no case markings to speak of, and ergativity is just one way of organizing grammatical relations. And I don't think it categorizes verbs very well, just languages and constructions. See the discussion about Fijian and Acehnese verbs here, for instance. – John Lawler Jan 28 '13 at 17:46
@JohnLawler I employ the term because it's a nifty wrapper for defining what sort of arguments these verbs take in different senses - very different from, for instance, look. And while I agree that constructions rather than words are key, I think in English it is the verb and its arguments which determine construction - unlike, say, tense and aspect, in which the verb is as it were the Patient of the constructive process. – StoneyB Jan 28 '13 at 18:41
Certainly verbs have more fun, as I tell my students. But that's only true of cyclic rules (of which there are, granted, a sufficiency). I can see why you want to use it, though, and -- provided there are enough examples, I can understand it, though it's not what I would call it. – John Lawler Jan 28 '13 at 18:45
If an ergative verb is one which allows the object in one clause to be the subject in another clause, then conclude is ergative. ‘The conductor concluded the concert with the national anthem’ versus ‘The concert concluded with the national anthem.’ No? – Barrie England Jan 28 '13 at 19:12
They’re important in English, because, like the passive, they allow a writer to avoid assigning responsibility for an action. – Barrie England Jan 28 '13 at 20:17

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