Basically, which is correct and why?

  • fire is attempted to start
  • fire is attempted to be started
  • Both are ugly and shouldn't be used. Try "An attempt was made to start the fire" instead. – Robusto Sep 14 '15 at 11:02
  • Good point, @Robusto, for the sake argument, what if I really had to? – Dima Tisnek Sep 14 '15 at 11:07
  • Then I pity you. – Robusto Sep 14 '15 at 11:17
  • Funny idea to express "They tried to make fire" in passive voice. Looks like silly school book task. Maybe this remark gets me a minus point, but I could not refrain. – rogermue Sep 14 '15 at 12:26
  • 1
    (a) Passive may be applied to transitive clauses only. (b) There are two verbs in this sentence, which means there are two clauses. (c) Attempt requires a human subject, and start is intransitive. (d) There are no human NPs in the sentences, so it is not clear what the corresponding active sentence might be -- maybe P attempts to start a fire, where P is some person. (e) The whole clause to start a fire is the direct object of attempt, so that would be the new subject if attempt were passivized -- To start a fire was attempted (by P), but that's not a really great sentence – John Lawler Sep 14 '15 at 17:39

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