In my English Wren and Martin Grammar book, the following sentence is converted from active to passive in the following way:-

Active:He kept me waiting.

Passive: I was kept waiting.

But I was wondering why can't you say 'I was kept waiting by him'. Is it just a just the way it is or is there a reason why the sentence I wrote is linguistically incorrect? Thanks in advance

  • 3
    The fact that a book does not list every single possible way to say something doesn't mean all non-listed ways are wrong. Why would including the agent (him) in the sentence be wrong? A better question is, why did the editors of your book suppress the agent? – oerkelens Jan 5 '15 at 15:16
  • This is an awkward one. It surely is basic enough to warrant closure, but OP has mentioned an (inadequate) grammar as a source. A better question (for the editors) is, why did the editors of your book not give a decent, comprehensive explanation of the passive construction (like Jon's below)? – Edwin Ashworth Jan 5 '15 at 16:20

But I was wondering why can't you say 'I was kept waiting by him'

You can.

In this regard the passive is more flexible, since you can either include the agent ("I was kept waiting by him" or leave it out ("I was kept waiting").

The active, since it has the agent as the subject, cannot do this. It must at the least have "Something kept me waiting" or "Someone kept me waiting", even if you don't care to state who did so.

  • Being able to add "by ..." is a pretty good test of something being in the passive voice ("... by zombies" has become the canonical test). – user184130 Aug 18 '18 at 13:57

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