I learned English autodidactically by reading books , watching movies , video games , etc.... But, there are some things in english that confused me , such as passive forms. What's the difference between 'x cannot be stolen' and 'x cannot be steal'? . Are both in passive forms and have the same meaning ?

  • 1
    Something can be a steal (meaning it’s so cheap it’s almost like you stole it rather than buying it), but *be steal is not grammatical. Jun 25, 2019 at 7:46

1 Answer 1


Only the first one is grammatically correct. The second one has no meaning. When something is stolen, it means that someone has stolen it. So, to answer your question, the first one is in passive form.

  • So you mean NO WAY the second is used to express passive ? Jun 25, 2019 at 8:07
  • 1
    Yes, no way. You cannot use it. Jun 25, 2019 at 8:11
  • 1
    It's a mistaken hearing. It should be a steal, with an article. But a is hard to hear and often missed in speech, giving the impression it's not there. As a verb, steal is present tense and infinitive, never participle or past tense. But as a noun, a steal, meaning a bargain, is very common as a predicate noun and therefore can follow the auxiliary be. Passive uses the auxiliary be followed by a past participle form. Steal cannot be a past participle, so this cannot be passive. Jun 25, 2019 at 14:57
  • 1
    @JohnLawler If it's a mistake in hearing (or interpretation), it could also be x cannot be steel, as in made of that metal. Jun 25, 2019 at 17:27
  • Could be, if it makes sense in context. But that's the listener's call, not the speaker's -- and certainly not the writer's. Jun 25, 2019 at 18:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.