I was wondering which one would feel more natural.

  1. The ball was kicked through the window by the boys.
  2. The ball was kicked by the boys through the window.

Personally I feel "kicked" should be followed immediately by "the boys". But I'm not a native English speaker, so I would like your opinion.

Also, it said in the direction that it's not always necessary to include who carried out the action. Should I include it here? Thank you.

  • I would just say "The ball was kicked through the window." – Jacob Mattison Jul 8 '14 at 14:08
  • I agree with @Jacob. Passives with agent phrases are much less common than agentless passives. The position of adverb phrases is irrelevant. – John Lawler Jul 8 '14 at 17:36

I'd go with #1. "Kicked through the window" is a very specific image, and breaking it up makes it less clear. (Think about it this way: The boys aren't through the window; the kicked ball was.)

  • Agreed, Just out of interest consider that with the addition of commas, the second sentence becomes much clearer: 'The ball was kicked, by the boys, through the window' – ElendilTheTall Jul 8 '14 at 13:53
  • Other options: "Through the window the ball was kicked by the boys" and "By the boys the ball was kicked through the window." Both seem a bit strange, but they avoid the following possibilities for misreading the original two options: (#1) Which window? the window by the boys (#2) Which boys? the boys through the window. – Brian Donovan Jul 8 '14 at 14:00
  • BrianDonovan -- More than a bit strange; those strike me as unnatural for a native English speaker. ElendilTheTall: Agreed. – keshlam Jul 8 '14 at 16:46

Number one sounds definitely better.

But keep in mind: the idea of passive is to get the object of an action in focus instead of the subject. So you can drop the by the boys if it's not important to inform about the actual actor.

This is also pretty helpful when you don't know who did something. Example:

The house owner is angry, because a ball has been kicked through the window.

Edit: Changed because the ball was kicked to because the ball has been kicked as the ball kicked through the window has a direct impact on the present, namely, an angry house owner.

  • If the kicker is was not observed, can it be known that the ball was impelled by a kick, as opposed to throwing or heading or what not? – Brian Donovan Jul 8 '14 at 14:54
  • well, I would call this just an assumption. It depends on the situation, of course. Another example would be "The tax has been raised." since you know it's someone of the government, but it doesn't matter who exactly (and you maybe don't know). The important fact is the raised tax. It's always about emphasis, you could also use the active sentence with "somebody": "somebody has raised the tax" – h345k34cr Jul 8 '14 at 18:35

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