It looks passive to me, due to the structure to be + past participle. However, if I take Z as a doer of the verb locate and change it around as in Z locates X, I am very confused with the meaning which I feel different from that in the "passive" format. I need to explain this to my students.


Locate is a transitive verb and so can form a passive. The active

The three travellers located the source of the river 50 miles inland.

becomes, in the passive,

The source of the river was located by the three travellers 50 miles inland.

However, in the construction X is located in Y, the -ed form of the verb is a participial adjective acting as the complement of the verb be. The question of voice does not arise. No one, I imagine, would think of sentences such as I am tired, This problem is complicated or They were very pleased as being any kind of passive. So it is with sentences like Paris is located in France and The key was located in the second drawer on the left.


Huddleston and Pullum, authors of ‘The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language’ distinguish between the ‘adjectival passive’ and the ‘be-passive’. In the sentence ‘Paris is located in France’, ‘located’ is the former, but the sentence ‘The source of the river was located by the three travellers’ is the latter. They point out that the difference is that when the verb preceding an adjectival passive is ‘be’, it can be substituted by another verb. So, we can say ‘Paris remains located in France’, but in the second sentence, there is no alternative to ‘was’.

  • 1
    Respect: I've been searching for questions to answer, but I haven't found one yet, that you haven't already answered perfectly. – ApprenticeHacker Jan 15 '12 at 9:00
  • @IntermediateHacker: Kind of you to say so. (Keep looking, though.) – Barrie England Jan 15 '12 at 9:17
  • @Barrie. There's an interesting difference between the examples you list in your last paragraph. With the first three it is possible to form a true passive construction: 'I am tired by your empty promises.' 'They were very pleased by the size of the meal.' 'This problem is complicated by the existence of different time scales.' (All plucked from Google.) But this doesn't work with 'located' in the sense of being somewhere (rather than finding it). I wonder if there are other past participles that behave like 'located / situated' and cannot be made passive. – Shoe Jan 15 '12 at 10:02
  • @Shoe: If I have understood your point correctly, I can offer ‘advanced’ (‘It was an advanced piece of engineering’) and ‘determined’ (‘They seemed very determined’). – Barrie England Jan 15 '12 at 16:12
  • Can the passive voice ever use is + past participle? For example, putting "I typed the paper" into the passive, you can get, "the paper is being typed (by me)", "the paper was typed (by me)", "the paper was being typed (by me)", or "the paper has been typed (by me)". However, in "the paper is typed", the word "typed" is now an adjective, and you cannot say *"the paper is typed by me". – Peter Shor Jan 29 '12 at 14:24

The Oxford Dictionary of English Grammar refers to this kind of construction as "pseudo-passive", i.e., it ".. neither has an active counterpart nor permits an agent." It contrasts pseudo-passives (which it also calls statal passives), where the verb to be is "arguably a copular verb," with true passives (actional passives), which can be converted to an active form with the agent as the subject.

Here's a good primer on the passive by Geoffrey Pullum, a contributor to Language Log and co-author of The Cambridge Grammar Of The English Language.

  • I’m not familiar with you source, but I think of the pseudo-passive as describing clauses like ‘I had my car washed’. – Barrie England Jan 15 '12 at 17:17
  • @Barrie. Here is part of the text from the grammar dictionary entry on the pseudo-passive: "A construction, consisting of a part of the verb be + past participle, that resembles a passive, but which has neither an active counterpart, nor permits an agent." – Shoe Jan 29 '12 at 10:52
  • Thanks. Prompted by your comment, I haved edited my answer. – Barrie England Jan 29 '12 at 13:11

Most of the dictionaries have entry located as adjective with the meaning situated. In your example, there is adverbial complement in Y as in

The restaurant is located near the cathedral.

To mention about passive, There must be "doer" in the sentence - at least hidden one we perceive. Sometimes this does not seem possible.

The Andes Mountains are located in South America.

And probably that is the reason dictionaries take it as adjective. On the other hand, from the example below, it is clear that "located" is used as verb.

The company located some of their agents in Los Angeles.

In my opinion, they are all sentences in passive voice.

I am tired because something / someone has been tiring me. Same for "They were very pleased"

Paris is located in France. It's a passive voice. The fact that it means that Paris is in France, does not exclude the fact that passive voice is being employed to convey this idea. Same for "situated".

As for "The problem is complicated", I would use "complex" to avoid this question whether it is a passive voice construction or not. Frequent use of this complicated as complex resulted in this type of phrase.

  • Hi! Thanks for taking the time to answer. Would you mind looking around for some sources to back up your intuition, here? On SE (as opposed to some other Q&A sites, like Yahoo! Answers or Quora or Reddit), an answer which starts with "In my opinion" is considered not-an-answer. – Dan Bron Mar 21 '16 at 22:42
  • Hello. I'm afraid I find this answer less than convincing. I will downvote tomorrow if it is not changed. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 21 '16 at 23:06

protected by user140086 Oct 30 '16 at 6:55

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