When I am solving English tests. I came across with would like in passive voice. So the question is:

Mr. Brown said he'd like...by Wednesday if that's possible

a) have finished the report b) the report will be finished c) the report finished

I thought variant B(the report will be finished) is correct because the first part of the sentence indicates future tense. But the answer is C(the report finished). As you see in variant C(the report finished) there is no to be that is required by the passive voice. I didn't understand why it accepted as a correct answer. Could someone explain to me the reason for that?

  • Personally I don't like any of the options. I would choose C but would, if I was constructing the sentence from scratch, insert "to be" before "finished" to give "Mr Brown would like the report to be finished by Wednesday". However this is like the (mainly Irish, I belive) construction "This X needs Y" where Y is a past participle. For example "This house needs cleaned" which, to me, should be "This house needs cleaning" or "This house needs to be cleaned"
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 9:39

3 Answers 3


Be is not always required to mark passive voice. There are other constructions like the one in the example given where the passive is not marked by be (CaGEL p1245):

i Most of the sense verbs

I heard the window broken.

ii Get and have:

She got/had the house painted.

I had my wallet stolen.

iii Like, want, report,fear and order; here the past-participial is an alternant of a passive to-infinitival:

He’d like/wants them (to be)killed humanely;

The captain was reported(to have been)killed;

They are feared (to have been)abducted;

He ordered it (to be)destroyed.

iv Need and want, as an alternant of the concealed passive:

He needs/wants his hair cut

In order to select the correct complement to the verb like, all we need do is consider what complementation patterns are allowed.

Like can take objects, predicative complements, gerund-participial clauses, to-infinitival clauses, expanded declarative content clauses (that-clauses) and past participial clauses:

Billy likes ice-cream. [object]

Billy like his ice-cream cold. [object + PC]

Billy likes his ice-cream to be served in a cone. [object + to-infinitival]

Billy likes eating cold ice-cream. [gerund-participial]

Billy likes me serving him ice-cream. [object + gerund-participial]

Billy likes his ice-cream served in a cone. [object + past-participial]

Billy likes for his ice-cream to be served in a cone. [to-infinitival]

Billy likes that his ice-cream always comes in a cone. [that-clause]

Given these choices for the complementation of like, we can now choose the correct answer. All three options have multiple possible interpretations depending on context:

a) have finished the report

plain infinitival I will have finished the report.

plain present I have finished the report.

b) the report will be finished

declarative main clause The report will be finished.

bare declarative content clause (no that) He said the report will be finished.

c) the report finished

declarative main clause The report finished.

object + past-participial We got the report finished.

We see that the only one which fits the allowed complementation patterns for like is (C).


If looking only at the phrase itself without any context, the report finished is an active-voice construction.

Semantically, it's strange. It's ascribing an action to a report—something that isn't normally done. But that doesn't make it any less an active-voice construction.

The following sentences are in the active voice:

  • The dog jumped.
  • The woman laughed.
  • The engine died.
  • The report finished.

The following sentences are in the passive voice:

  • The window was broken [by someone].
  • The store will be opened [by someone].
  • The pie will be eaten [by someone].
  • The report will be finished [by someone].

Note the following if replacing the ellipsis in the example sentence in the question with the optional phrases:

  • The entire sentence will be in the active voice (Mr. Brown said …) regardless of the voice of the phrase itself.
  • Although b) is the only passive-voice phrase, if either a) or b) are used, the sentence becomes ungrammatical.
  • C) is, on its own, not in the passive voice, but it's the only option that produces a grammatical sentence.

In short:

  1. ✘ Mr. Brown said he'd like have finished the report by Wednesday if that's possible.
    → Ungrammatical with the insertion of an (elided) active-voice phrase.
  2. ✘ Mr. Brown said he'd like the report will be finished by Wednesday if that's possible.
    → Ungrammatical with the insertion of a passive-voice phrase.
  3. ✔ Mr. Brown said he'd like the report finished by Wednesday if that's possible.
    → Grammatical with the insertion of an active-voice phrase.

There is no option that produces a grammatical sentence with the insertion of a passive-voice phrase.

If c) is being marked as "correct," it can only be because it's the only version that produces a grammatical sentence. But it's not because it inserts a passive-voice phrase.

Having said that, looking at the sentence that's produced, and putting the phrase used in c) in context, the sentence is grammatical and the contextualized phrase actually is in the passive voice:

He would like the report finished [by someone] by Wednesday.

Most likely the author or authors of the test thought this was reasonable. I, however, find the assumptions and examples strange. At best, it's confusing when the options present issues around active and passive voice in addition to some forming ungrammatical sentences.

Also, the fact that c) on its own, without context, is active, but becomes passive when placed into the sentence in context is confusing when it comes to understanding what is being described and what's actually being asked.

  • 2
    This answer seems very confusing to me because you spend a lot of time discussing the sentence "the report finished", which is completely irrelevant to this question. You're making it sound like the word string "the report finished" in the original question is the sentence "the report finished", whereas in reality the word string in the question is completely different from and unrelated to the sentence "the report finished" (aside from the mere coincidence that they consist of the same words in the same order). Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 4:46
  • @TannerSwett Yes, and that's exactly the point. The test itself is confusing. The way it's written puts a great deal of emphasis on just the word strings, not making it clear exactly what's going on or what's expected. As I say, the sentence can only be in the active voice. So, asking for a passive voice version makes no sense. The only thing that makes sense is looking at the string. But that's also a shifting target between the string itself and the resulting clause once used—which, in two cases, is something ungrammatical. Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 12:46
  • "He'd like the report finished" is not much different from "he'd like his coffee hot" -- neither the report nor the coffee are ascribed any action. We're looking at a direct object and an object complement. I find the test question sensible and clear because the only thing that fits is the option that has no tense. Sure, that string can be interpreted as a sentence, but none of the options for the test question are presented as sentences. They're presented as strings that might make sense in the blank, and so looking at any other context simply doesn't make sense. Commented Jul 19, 2020 at 17:15

Well, one of the ways you can use the word "want" (as well as the phrase "would like") is by putting a noun and a passive participle after it. Examples are:

  • I want this building demolished. (The meaning is similar to "I would be happy if somebody demolished this building".)
  • I want him out. (The meaning is similar to "I would be happy if he went out from this place".)
  • I would like the report finished. (Similar to "I would be happy if somebody finished the report".)

However, both "he'd like have finished the report" and "he'd like the report will be finished" are both nonsense; there is no construction in English which looks like either of those phrases.

In particular, the phrase "the report will be finished" is an independent clause, and you can't simply put an independent clause after "he'd like".

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