I'm trying to find where the passive form "be regarded" belongs in terms of transitivity. In the sentence: Only a minority of countries would be regarded as part of the third world.

Is the verb would be regarded a 'copula' and the structures that follows it a subject complement? Or, is it 'monotransitive' and what follows it is an object?

Thank you!

  • 1
    Be regarded is a passive form, and passives are intransitive (Passivization changes a transitive clause to an intransitive one because it promotes the direct object to subject). Would be regarded is not a copula. The structure that follows it is a noun phrase introduced by as (which may actually be derived from a copula, but isn't one any more), which represents the perception of the subject of be regarded in the eyes of Unspecified, the agent of regard. Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 14:51
  • If changed to active voice, it should be "XYZ would regard only a minority of countries as part of the third world." It answers, "Whom/ what would XYZ regard, as part of the third world?" I doubt whether ...would regard... can function as a copula.
    – Ram Pillai
    Commented Apr 20, 2020 at 14:55
  • @JohnLawler Would it be possible to get a reference about passivization in relation to transitivity/intransitivity please?
    – Nel
    Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 17:18
  • @Nel Try this list of answers. Commented Apr 22, 2020 at 14:52

1 Answer 1


From OALD this verb is shown as being neither transitive nor intransitive; it is not labelled aither as linking verb (as "to be" is in this dictionary). If we can convince ourselves that this verb expresses no action, the void of information on the transitivity of the verb becomes understandable: it is a stative verb (as opposed to "dynamic" (action)). The structure that follows is the complement of the verb.

Those verbs must not be confused with copular verbs (copulas, linking verbs) (ref.).

A copular verb expresses either that
the subject and its complement denote the same thing or that
the subject has the property denoted by its complement.

  • John is Mr X's only son.
  • John is a student.

There is in "to regard sb/sth as sth" no idea at all of the subject and the complement being the same thing nor that the subject has the property denoted by the complement, and there is instead the idea that
someone is in the state of believing that sb/sth has the property denoted by the complement.

  • John is regarded as being Mr X's only son.

The following test is useful (ref.).

Dowty's analysis

Dowty gives some tests to decide whether an English verb is stative. They are as follows:

■ Statives do not occur in the progressive (the * before a sentence means that it is ungrammatical or absurd to most native English speakers):

• John is running. (non-stative)
• *John is knowing the answer.

■ They cannot be complements of "force":

• I forced John to run.
•*I forced John to know the answer.

■ They do not occur as imperatives.

• Run!
•*Know the answer! (The phrase "Know thyself!" is imperative, but it uses the archaic "know" as a dynamic verb.)

■ They cannot appear in the pseudo-cleft construction:

• What John did was run.
• *What John did was know the answer.

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