1.Rama married Sita

2.Sita was married by Rama

" The Teacher's Travelogue " prepared by the Regional Institute of India, Banglore discussed the use of active and passive voice.

It goes on to say that the passive voice( sentence 2) is grammatically correct but different in meaning from the active voice ( sentence 1)

According to the book the sentence 2 means Sita was married not to Rama but to somebody else.

It explains that Rama became a priest and performed the marriage rituals of Sita.

The example is shown with illustrations too.

I have taken the example because most of the students and some teachers passivize the active voice in the similar manner unknowingly.

I know that the correct passive voice is "Sita was married to Rama".

Do native speakers understand the sentence in the similar way and agree that the change of preposition makes all the difference ?

  • Even the first one is ambiguous. "Rama married Sita" could mean: Sita became Rama's wife. But "Rama married Sita could mean: Rama was the official (or priest or judge or...) who officiated at the ceremony where Sita married someone else.
    – GEdgar
    Aug 23, 2019 at 14:07
  • @GEdgar Thank you very much.I have seen the usage in the word Master before I post the question Aug 23, 2019 at 14:14
  • 4
    Without additional context, I believe most people would take the first sentence to mean that Sita and Rama became a married couple, and the second sentence to mean that Rama officiated (performed the ceremony) at Sita's wedding.
    – Hellion
    Aug 23, 2019 at 14:18
  • 1
    They are both correct, but 2 can have a different meaning from 1. It can also mean the same. Aug 23, 2019 at 14:49
  • 1
    Without context, "Sita was married to Rama" would most likely be taken to mean that they are no longer married.
    – nnnnnn
    Aug 23, 2019 at 16:37

2 Answers 2


"Rama married Sita" can have two meanings, either that Rama and Sita got married to each other, or that Rama carried out the ceremony in which Sita was married to someone else. However, it would nearly always be interpreted in the former way unless there is some context indicating that it should actually be interpreted in the latter (as an aside: I have fun with this construct since I can accurately say my Mum married my Sister).

"Sita was married by Rama" might in some grammatical sense be interpretable as saying that Sita and Rama married each other, but I cannot think of any circumstances under which a native speaker would use this construct to mean that and it would be almost certain to cause confusion. The normal way to phrase it would instead be "Sita was married to Rama".

  • 1
    Aidely, A father can marry her daughter if he is a priest Aug 23, 2019 at 16:13

'Marry' can be used as a passive only when you are describing the agent, that means the person who conducts the ceremony. So for example 'Rama and Sita were married by a priest'. But you cannot make a passive with the two spouses - Rama married Sita and Sita married Rama.

  • Hello, Birupakshya Kar. Welcome to ELU! Not my downvotes, but I can understand why they were given: 'John married Jane' passivises totally acceptably (if not as idiomatically, but still often used where it is wanted to give emphasis to who it was that Jane married) to 'Jane was married by John'. And this would be the default reading. The other sense using the by-phrase is rarely used, though 'Jane and John were married by Peter, then the pastor' is totally clear. 'Jane was married by Peter[, then the pastor]' doesn't sound too natural. Apr 24, 2021 at 11:08

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