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In my textbook, it said

"In an active sentence we need to include the agent as subject; using a passive allows us to omit the agent by leaving out the prepositional phrase with by"

Ex:
Jackson threw me into the dungeon
I was thrown into the dungeon

The prepositional phrase is still intact, so why does it say "leaving out the prepositional phrase"?

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  • Because it can be left out: "I was thrown into the dungeon" does not state the agent.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 14:32
  • But the prepositional phrase is still there.. What am I missing here? Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 14:39
  • 3
    The "prepositional phrase with by" is the by phrase, which they have left out instead of stating "I was thrown into the dungeon by Jackson".
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 14:51
  • 3
    It doesn't say "leaving out the prepositional phrase"; it says "leaving out the prepositional phrase with by " (which it leaves out in the example 'I was thrown into the dungeon'). Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 16:07
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    @JohnLawler Thanks for the tip, I'll be sure to do some more googling on syntactic analysis later. Do you have any more tips for me to look into? Commented Oct 21, 2013 at 18:00

1 Answer 1

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In an active sentence we need to include the agent as subject; using a passive allows us to omit the agent by leaving out the prepositional phrase with by.

  • Active: Jackson throws me into the dungeon.
  • Passive: I was thrown into the dungeon by Jackson.
  • Agentless passive: I was thrown into the dungeon.

The “prepositional phrase with by” is the phrase starting by which identifies the agent. In converting an active sentence to a passive, the agent is available and can be included as in the second example here.

The agent can be omitted if we leave out the phrase starting by (see the third example).

The textbook is not talking about the “into the dungeon” prepositional phrase, because that is not “the prepositional phrase with by”. It can be simplified using Edwin Ashworth's examples:

  • Active: Marshall bowled Boycott.
  • Passive: Boycott was bowled by Marshall.
  • Agentless passive: Boycott was bowled.

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