If I have 'read guides where people insist that...' then how do I use that in the passive voice?

'In guides I have read, it is insisted that...'? 'In guides I have read, it is insisted upon that..'?

Or is it something different?

  • 2
    Why would you want to do this? You could say "I have read guides in which it is insisted that ...", but this is much more awkward than "I have read guides which insist ..." Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 12:10
  • I agree that the construct Peter Shor suggests is a lot more natural than the ones you have thought of.
    – Irene
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 12:11
  • Comparing a couple of obvious forms in Google Books, it's clear widely insisted is sometimes used, though it's rare by comparison with widely claimed. A quick scan of the instances suggests "upon" is slightly more likely to be present than not, but my feeling is that usually it's just a stylistic choice whether to have "upon" or not. Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 15:29

5 Answers 5


Here X is the thing insisted. For example, X could be "visitors to Italy must try the delicious local pizzas".

You could say, "There has been insistence that X". Or "That X has been insisted".

And your structure also works, "... it has been insisted that X".

You can prefix or postfix any of my examples with "In guides that I have read", "In some guides", and so on. For example:

In guides that I have read, it has been insisted that X.
It has been insisted that X in guides that I have read.
In some guides, there has been insistence that X.
It is insisted, in some guides, that X.

These are all acceptable, though some are awkward.


If you really wanted to, you could say it is insisted that and you would have the support of at least one citation from the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). It is insisted upon that, however, has no such support. In any case, both sound very formal and are unlikely to be used in contemporary English.

  • I edited my question to reflect my real wonder - the passive voice
    – OddCore
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 12:20
  • And I've now shortened my answer to reflect your edits. Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 12:27
  • I've nothing to back it up apart from gut feeling, but I suspect upon is more likely to be present when the insistence concerns something that must be done rather than something that must be true. I think insisted is a bit unusual, but no more "formal" than, say, claimed. It's just the passive voice that's formal. Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 15:48
  • @FumbleFingers: I share your visceral inclination. The passive is formal in such constructions, but it is not invariably so. Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 15:53
  • It seems that in OP's construction he's going to continue with the clause defining what's being insisted (upon), which I think requires at least the word "that". But NGram suggests it's comparatively unusual to precede it by "upon", so although I've already upvoted your answer I'm inclined to think you should answer the specific question and recommend he uses it is insisted that.... Whatever - your call. Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 16:24

It depends on the exact sentence, specifically on whether the construction is "insisted that" or "insisted on"; your question mentions both.

Here are two examples:

I have read cookbooks where people insist that you sift your flour twice.
I have read cookbooks in which it is insisted that flour be sifted twice.


I have been to countries where people insist on eating dinner at three in the afternoon.
I have been to countries where eating dinner at three in the afternoon is insisted upon.


I for myself would probably use an expression like

'... read guides where people would insist that ...'.

Grammatically, this may not be the correct way to transform into past tense. However, it seems to convey the meaning appropriately enough, assuming you are dealing with literary writing and not technical material.

  • Terribly sorry - I meant passive voice, not past tense. I have corrected my initial question
    – OddCore
    Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 12:07

Insist is an intransitive verb, and only transitive verbs may be Passivized, except under very special circumstances. Of which this is not one.

Semantically, insist means to make a statement (with optional That-clause) or to issue an order or demand for action (with optional gerund), but with the additional information that the statement was strongly affirmed by its speaker -- or the order strongly delivered, and probably repeated, and that the speaker was convinced of the truth of the statement or their authority and determination to see the action performed, and tried to convince the listener(s) of its truth or necessity.

Syntactically, insist requires a volitional human subject and takes two types of complements:

  • a tensed That-clause, with its own subject, denoting the content of the statement:

    She insisted that the cat was hanging from the chandelier.

  • a transitivizing preposition on, which may take an NP object or a gerund referring to the the statement or proposed action.

    She insists on it. ~ She insisted on that one.

    She insists on him/his driving his own car.

If the gerund is subjectless, the subject is interpreted to be the same as the subject of insist (i.e, insist on takes a Gerund with Equi-NP-Deletion)

  • She insists on raising her own tomatoes.

The That-clause or gerund can be passivized, of course, if they're transitive:

  • She insists on being driven everywhere.
  • She insists that he was hit by a train.

But the only passive I can find for insist is with the preposition on

  • Ordinarily we wouldn't do that, but this was insisted on by the top brass.

and only really works with a small (ideally pronoun) pre-Passive preposition object

  • ??That window treatment over there was insisted on by the top brass.
  • *For the chauffeur to drive her everywhere was insisted on by the old lady.
  • *That the world would end tomorrow was insisted on by the Mayan scholar.

Whether a particular predicate can be Passivized depends on a number of things, including transitivity, and a nascent transitive verb construct like insist on hasn't grown a whole lot of transitivity muscles yet -- just enough to support a pronoun, it seems.

  • 1
    The two OED citations I mentioned in my own answer are ‘It was insisted, that the testator had restrained the estate of inheritance during her life' (1805) and ‘This condition should be first humbly insisted on’ (1702). Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 16:12
  • Extraposition is necessary to save the first citation (and I really didn't want to get into Extraposition; this was too long already), and it's legal language, which is capable of anything. I wouldn't call it good Modern English. The second one is a passive of insist on, but the word placement, the use of humbly, the formal terminology, all shout that the sentence is 300 years old and depicts an ancient social hierarchy and ancient linguistic means of dealing with it. Again, nothing I could recommend for ModE speakers. Commented Jan 2, 2012 at 16:27
  • 1
    Historically, Ngrams shows that the use of "insist" in the passive was not particularly rare, although this usage has indeed been declining since the 1940s. So I'd classify "insist" as one of the exceptions to the rule that only transitive verbs can be put into the passive. Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 14:17
  • OK. Although I'd rather say that insist can, like most intransitive verbs, be used transitively in certain constructions. Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 16:35

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