I was recently writing a lab report and noticed that I could reverse the subject and object while still keeping the same meaning.

Shown is a graph of ...

A graph of ... is shown.

I can reverse them in this case, but other times not so much. For example I could say an oak tree is a tree, but a tree is not necessarily an oak tree.

So, my question is in what cases can I reverse the two? And does it depend on if both the subject and the object are nouns or if the object is a adjective, participle, proposition, etc.?

  • That tree is an oak. That oak is a tree. So long as the referents are sufficiently specific then "is" is "commutative" (to borrow the math term). – Hot Licks Feb 21 at 2:04
  • Thank you. That clears things up. – Joel Van Eeckhout Feb 21 at 23:50

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