How would you convert the imperative sentence: "Go to school now."
to the passive voice?

While discussing it in class, our teacher gave the following solution:
"You are ordered to go to school now."

However, I felt that this must be wrong, since the sentence is still in the active voice. It seems to be in the passive voice with reference to the verb 'order', but we need to convert the sentence with respect to the verb 'go'.

I thought of a solution:
"Let you be gone to school now."
"Be gone to school now."

Are any of them correct? And if not, how would you convert the sentence into passive voice?


Just realised that 'go' is an intratransitive verb. Does that mean that there won't be a passive version of it? As mentioned here:

You CAN'T. You can only turn into passive verbs those verbs who can have the "direct object".
For example:
I eat (what do you eat?) an apple
I see (what do you see?) a bird
I read (what do you read?) a poem

But if you say : I go, you can't ask "what do you go", because it doesn't make any sense! And that's why you can't write that in passive voice.

Edit II:

How about "Let the school be gone to by you."?

  • 1
    You may be interested in the site English Language Learners. – MetaEd Aug 15 '13 at 13:18
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    @MετάEd "English Language Learners Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of other languages learning English." My first language is English :) – mikhailcazi Aug 15 '13 at 13:29
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    That is a beta site and we're still working the details out, but it's named English Language Learners because we do want to accept questions there from anyone who is studying English, even if it's their first language. – MetaEd Aug 15 '13 at 13:36
  • Oh okay :) Better change the description then! – mikhailcazi Aug 15 '13 at 13:51
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    "Your presence is immediately required at a nearby educational facility, wherein, if you recall the events of the previous months, you have been enrolled as a pupil." – Kaz Aug 15 '13 at 19:56

Andrew Leach's explanation is sound as far as how you might go about doing this, but the answers all sound awkward and goofy. I think this points to a bigger point that you shouldn't do this.

Consider the reasons for using passive voice. The whole idea of passive voice is inverting the emphasis between subject and object, so it just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to do in imperative sentences.

  • We shouldn't - that's quite correct, but it's not really gonna help me writing "You shouldn't do this conversion" in my examination paper! Hahaha :D – mikhailcazi Aug 15 '13 at 16:39
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    Just so. This is not an answer to the question asked. – Andrew Leach Aug 15 '13 at 17:14
  • @AndrewLeach - Well, yes, hence why I referenced your answer in case someone really, really wanted to do so. :) – Lynn Aug 15 '13 at 20:58

A suitable reference is English Practice.

Where the verb is intransitive, as you note, the passive form is different. To create the passive, you need an object to turn into the subject of be.

Active: Bring it home.
Passive: Let it be brought home.

Active: Please help me.
Passive: Let me be helped.
Passive: You are requested to help me.

Active: Get out. (No object)
Passive: You are ordered to get out.

A fundamental property of a passive construction is that the agent (that is, the person who is actually doing the bringing, requesting, or ordering) is not stated. All we know is that an action is done — bringing something home, helping me, or an order to get out.

In an imperative sentence like "Go to school now," there is an implied subject and object which can be made explicit in an obviously active-voice sentence: "I order you to go to school now." When that is made into a passive construction, the I is lost and the sentence becomes "You are ordered to go to school now."

  • True, but this would logically mean that tha answer to OPs question would be Begone to school, which in uncommon to say the least. – TimLymington Aug 15 '13 at 13:41
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    @TimLymington I'm not convinced that's actually passive. It's an active imperative in much the same vein as "Be rude" or "Turn green!" OED has "Really two words be gone (compare be off), long used without analysis in the imperative as expressing a single notion, and so written as one word." – Andrew Leach Aug 15 '13 at 13:49
  • I still don't get why adding 'You are ordered to' converts the sentence to the passive voice. The subject is still doing the action i.e. going to school - thus making it active. Although the subject is being acted upon by the verb 'order', as I mentioned above, that is not the verb of our interest, is it? – mikhailcazi Aug 15 '13 at 16:33
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    Yes, but that's additional information. "The burger was eaten" is a standard passive construction. The passive voice is generally used because the agent is not necessary. However, it can be added by those who need it. [See what I did there?] – Andrew Leach Aug 17 '13 at 11:06
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    -1 Regarding this actual answer, it's quite wrong. The passive voice is a simple transformation of an active, transitive verb with a subject and an object into one with a subject and an optional adjust phrase, where the new subject is semantically the same as the old object and the new adjust phrase is semantically the same as the old subject. Nothing more. Intransitive verbs cannot be passivized, period. You can construct related sentences that might employ the passive voice, but those are in no way passive transformations of the origination. – siride Aug 18 '13 at 3:52

Strictly speaking, a passive version of your imperative would be:

School be gone to (by you)!


  • pragmatically, this is not absolutely equivalent, because you are in effect 'commanding' the school rather than the person (but this is always the case with active/passive pairs: they will involve shifts in focus/emphasis/scope and are never absolutely equivalent)
  • we are in effect personnifying the school (that's sort of OK, you will find other examples such as "Rain be gone!", but it is definitely stylistically 'marked' and not an everyday expression)
  • generally, it is pragmatically odd to make locations the subject of passives (so by the same observation, people wouldn't usually say "Birmingham was gone to by the train", "The station was left by the train" etc).

In general it's a slightly silly exercise to try and 'turn' an active imperative into a passive or vice versa, because the choice depends more on which argument of the verb is most naturally the element to be 'commanded'.

More natural examples of passive imperatives would be e.g.:

Be warned that I am in a bad mood!

Don't be put off by his appearance.

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    More than slightly silly, I'd say. Or, ... "More than slightly silly" would be said by me. – John Lawler Aug 16 '13 at 20:58
  • You can't passivize intransitive verbs, period. – siride Aug 18 '13 at 3:53
  • @siride That's not necessarily true. – Neil Coffey Aug 18 '13 at 14:31
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    @siride Not necessarily! We are talking about definitions of things, but the definitions are really more complex than you seem to be assuming. Go away and have a look in more detail at different subcategories of 'intransitive' and issues of the passive such as how you deal with a case such as German "Hier wurde getanzt". There is something in what you are saying: that in reality, apparent 'active' vs 'passive' variants of an utterance probably involve shifts in the nature of the arguments beyond simply 'turning the object into the subject'... – Neil Coffey Aug 18 '13 at 14:53
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    ...but I really don't think you can simplify things to "intransitive verbs are completely incompatible with the passive voice". – Neil Coffey Aug 18 '13 at 14:54

How would you convert the imperative sentence: "Go to school now." to the passive voice?

(1) I wouldn't. (Check the question asked)

(2) If the question had read

How could you convert the imperative sentence: "Go to school now." into a paraphrase containing the passive voice?

I'd answer 'You can't'.

(3) If the question had read

Consider the imperative sentence: "Go to school now." Is there a way of saying this so that the overall sense is not totally lost, but containing the passive voice?

I'd probably answer

"You are being told to go to school now." (But I know which version would be used by sensible people.)

I'd say that this question is asking for something beyond the well-known transformation involved in 'convert[ing a] sentence ... to the passive voice'. And is thus a poorly phrased question.


Let the school be gone to by you or you can say let the school be gone by you but the first one the most correctly

  • Did you realize that nobody is able to read your answer. All I is see a series of words. I think there's even an error in your first sentence, but as I'm not able to parse your answer I might be wrong on that. Do you mind improving your answer to make it readable, especially for non-native, i.e. language learners. – Em1 Apr 23 '14 at 7:25

protected by Andrew Leach Oct 17 '14 at 17:16

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