I wonder how it can be possible for a 'stative verb', that is not intransitive, to be used in a 'passive structure'.

I know there are a lot of passive sentences containing stative verbs.

The definition of 'active and passive structure' says:

When A does something to B, there are often two ways to talk about it. If we want A (the 'doer') to be the subject, we use an active verb. And if we want B (the 'receiver' of the action) to be the subject, we use passive verb.

So, the way I see it, as long as there is a doer of the action we can have a passive structure – unless, of course, I'm missing something.

But the thing is, in sentences with stative verbs there is no action and no doer of the action.

So why should they have passive forms?

Take include, contain, involve, lack, own, require for example.

The definitions of 'include' and contain' say:

(In the first sense of include) 'If one thing includes another, the second thing is part of the first.' (Longman Dictionary)

(In the first sense of contain) 'If something such as a bag, box, or place contains something, that thing is inside it.' (Longman Dictionary)

However I asked this question generally, but here are some examples:

I know the following two sentences are correct.

  1. 'The bill includes tax and service'.

And this one:

  1. 'In passive sentences, the thing receiving the action is the subject of the sentence and the thing doing the action is optionally included.'

But if I'm not mistaken of course, this one is related to the second sense of the verb 'include' (i.e. To make someone or something part of a larger group or set), not the first one I mentioned above.

Although I know the following one cannot be correct, I am wondering why.

*'Tax and service are included the bill.'

There is an example in Cambridge Dictionary under the entry for 'include':

'Tax and ​service are included in the ​bill.'

If 'in' in above sentence is necessary, why there is no preposition in example 2.

And if it's related to the second sense of 'include' there should be a preposition thus:

Tax and service are included in.

Or in example 2:

.... and the thing doing the action is optionally included in.

As we say 'he was looked at', not *'he was looked'.

Could you explain if it is correct to say "Tax is included"?

If so, I want to know that if "include" is related to the first or second sense of the verb mentioned in Longman or Oxford. And if it's related to the second sense, why the preposition (in/on) is omitted?

I think the preposition must be applied, because the preposition is the only thing that differentiates the usage of 'include' as the preposition 'to' does in intransitive verb 'belong' and transitive phrasal verb 'belong to'.

  • Ahh, what passive sentences are you asking about? Please give some examples. Jan 11, 2016 at 23:52
  • @curiousdannii Should I add it in my question?
    – haha
    Jan 12, 2016 at 0:07
  • Yes that would be best. Jan 12, 2016 at 0:12
  • @curiousdannii I updated the question with some examples to make it more clear.
    – haha
    Jan 12, 2016 at 1:24

2 Answers 2


To contain, to include are actions of sorts, but the preposition we use is typically in rather than by, though by is not out of the question, if we're emphasizing the agent's agency.

The cell contains a prisoner.

The prisoner is contained in the cell.

The prisoner is contained by the cell. [special emphasis on the cell's strength, perhaps, such as the thickness of its walls or bars]

The list of integers includes an odd number.

An odd number is included in the list.

John included Mary in the game.

Mary was included in the game by John.

Mary was included in the game.



Lake Erie borders Ohio on the north.
Ohio is bordered by Lake Erie on the north.

Clearly, the second is the passive of the first. Clearly, there is no action involved, and no actor or recipient. Since "bordering" is not ordinarily a process, there is no corresponding progressive aspect:

*Lake Erie is bordering Ohio on the north.
*Ohio is being bordered by Lake Erie on the north.

(Except you may be able to interpret these last two examples if you think of them being said in the midst of some map-making exercise.)

So I think "border" is a stative verb. Yet, it has a passive.

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