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This question already has an answer here:

I don't believe it is, so I'd like the experts to chime in (I'm well versed in the passive, but thought maybe I'm missing some fine point familiar only to Ph.D's in linguistics).

The sentence in question is:

The marathon participants were Harry, Luke and myself.

There are those who claim myself is correct because the sentence is in the passive (???), whereas if we switch it around,

Harry, Luke and myself were the marathon participants,

it all of a sudden magically "becomes" the active voice, so you can no longer use myself, you have to use I.

I have scoured countless off-site sources as well as posts here, yet none of them seems to support the assertion that the first example is in the passive.

Not to mention the fact that if it were truly the passive, we'd have to use me, not myself.

The marathon was participated in by Harry, Luke and me.

EDIT: So I need proof that the first example is in the passive.

marked as duplicate by MetaEd Aug 31 '18 at 17:03

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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    Who are "those"? And please post the necessary links. The post is public, so there's no violation in posting the link. You can quote the comment, too. bearing in mind, we've all made mistakes and posted stupid comments in good faith. Only to return a couple of hours later (or days) and seen what complete fools we made of ourselves. P.S It's not a passive sentence , but a lot, a lot of people get this one wrong. They see a "were" and immediately think "passive"! – Mari-Lou A Aug 30 '18 at 19:50
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    @Mari-LouA: See I or me at the end of a list for context. – Sven Yargs Aug 30 '18 at 19:52
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    Why do you "need proof" of something that you can't find any evidence for and that other folks are telling you isn't true? – 1006a Aug 30 '18 at 21:47
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    Perhaps the question you mean to ask is, "Is this sentence in the passive voice?" – Tanner Swett Aug 30 '18 at 22:14
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    What I was trying to get at, not too clearly, is whether you are happy to accept evidence either way about passivity. Right now your question reads more like "I'm pretty sure this isn't X, please prove it is X," which is confusing. It's also unclear whether you care about the reflexivity issue, or only passive vs active status. – 1006a Aug 30 '18 at 23:23
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There are those who claim "myself" is correct because the sentence is in the passive (???), whereas if we switch it around [...] it all of a sudden magically "becomes" the active voice, so you can no longer use myself, you have to use I.

This is just wrong. The presence of reflexive pronouns is not a test for passivity. My example below, "I introduced myself" is a counterexample.

Below, I'll detail when to use "myself" and show why it's unrelated to voice.


So, to me, a speaker of American English,

The marathon participants were Harry, Luke and myself.

and

The marathon participants were Harry, Luke and me.

are both okay, neither sounds totally grammatical.

The use of reflexive pronouns in English can be explained in X' theory using c-command. An argument c-commands another if it is higher in the deep structure of the sentence, and the reflexive is embedded within its complement.

Further, a reflexive takes its meaning from the argument that c-commands it. So in order to need to say "myself," that must be "I" higher in the tree.

Take this tree below. The determiner phrase "I" c-commands "myself" because "myself" is embedded within I'. This is starting to get technical, so basically, everything within I' is c-commanded by the DP "I" because I' is next to DP in the tree.

Here, "IP" stands for "inflection phrase" and isn't important to understanding the relationship.

Grammatical reflexive parse tree.

The same page has a second tree for the sentence *"Myself is so proud of me." There is no "I" higher in the tree than myself so this sentence is bad (we usually say "ungrammatical.") Don't worry about intermediate structure of the sentence.

Ungrammatical reflexive parse tree

I suspect that your first sentence, "The marathon participants were Harry, Luke, and myself" is acceptable to you because the person that "myself" refers to is a member of "marathon participants." Other people may not be able to interpret these phrases in the same way, and might find it marginal or "and me" better.

Likewise, *"Harry, Luke and myself were the marathon participants" is bad because there is nothing structurally above "myself."

Finally, you can say "The marathon was participated in by Harry, Luke and me" but not "The marathon was participated in by Harry, Luke and *myself." because there is nothing to c-command "myself" that is interpretable to refer to the same person.

Let me know if I can make this explanation more clear in any way.


Notes:

  1. Trees are from the Wikibooks Government and Binding Theory book.

  2. In linguistics, we denote ungrammatical sentences/elements with an asterisk, as I've done above.

  3. X' is pronounced "X-bar."

  • All the work you put into that post is commendable. But it doesn't answer my question (please read it again), viz. how can somebody argue that the first example is in the passive? I myself {chuckle} know well the usage of me, myself and I. But the claim that the sentence in question is the passive, THAT is what I need to see proof of. – Wordster Aug 30 '18 at 20:38
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    @Wordster It has nothing to do with voice. Can you link to a claim that the use of a reflexive pronoun necessitates the passive voice? – Azor Ahai Aug 30 '18 at 20:41
  • That's just IT: I don't believe it's the passive voice. I'm asking that the claim made at the other post be verified with "chapter and verse." – Wordster Aug 30 '18 at 20:43
  • @Wordster What other post? – Azor Ahai Aug 30 '18 at 20:44
  • Sven Yargs posted the link above, 54 minutes ago. – Wordster Aug 30 '18 at 20:47
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So, the sentence in question (again) is:

The marathon participants were Harry, Luke and myself.

This sentence is not in the passive voice because the passive voice always involves a form of the verb "to be" followed by a past participle. There are no past participles in this sentence.

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    That's right -- 'were' is a form of 'to be', but there are no participles. This is a 'copula', and they are about 'state of being'; neither active nor passive. – AmI Aug 30 '18 at 21:59
  • I would upvote this answer if it also mentioned the reflexive: the antecedent of 'myself' is the 'participants'; since the listener didn't know that the speaker would be included until the copula is processed, the use of '-self' is not needed (but not excluded either). – AmI Aug 30 '18 at 22:10
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The terminology 'passive/active voice' was definitely misused there (it's active voice in both cases). However, replacement of 'myself' with 'me' (the original question there was about I/me) would give a pair of sentences, at least showing what the author of that comment was leading to: it was actually about subject/object (I/me) switching.

The marathon participants were Harry, Luke and me.

(participants is the subject, Harry, Luke and me are objects)

Harry, Luke and I were (that) marathon participants.

(Harry, Luke and I are subjects, marathon and participants are objects)

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