Which of these is correct?

1.How do you want your house to be built?
2.How do you want your house built?

I think 1 is correct because it is the house that will be built(someone will build it). But I can also get the same meaning with 2. So I don't know which one should be used. If 2 is correct and means the same, could you please explain the syntax?

And for these ones too:

  1. When it was started to be built....
  2. When it started to be built....
  • (1) and (2) are input and output of the syntactic rule of To be-deletion. There's no difference in meaning, and they're both grammatical, since it's largely an optional rule. (3) and (4) are hopeless, though (4) is not totally ungrammatical. Dec 20, 2020 at 16:38

2 Answers 2


Your #3 here awkwardly piles passive on passive. And in #4 the active started seems to attribute active agency, incongruously, to something that within the same sentence is passively to be built. But #1 and #2 are both fine. The difference between them is a matter of ellipsis.


Try the Active Voice first. Would help to see things through clearly—

They started to build the wall a month ago.

Rendered in the Passive Voice, the sentence would read—

The wall was started to be built (by them) a month ago.

It started to be built conveys the absurd notion that the wall started (to be built) of its own accord.

I hope this helps.

  • 1
    It is much more idiomatic to say The wall started being built (by them) a month ago. See Ngrams. Dec 20, 2020 at 13:45
  • Thank you, @Peter Shor. But it does seem to be at odds with how we normally use start as verb, right? I just played it by the early, so to speak.
    – user405662
    Dec 20, 2020 at 13:49
  • 1
    'X started being built ...' may feel awkward, but is perfectly idiomatic. Yes, 'start' does at least strongly connote an agent or natural force (which walls don't have, unless they say crack or fall down), but similar expressions are used (electric cars have started being used ...; the main piles holding up the pier have started to be eaten away). Dec 20, 2020 at 15:16
  • Ah, that's right! Thanks, Edwin Ashworth. And whoops, that's ear there in my previous comment.
    – user405662
    Dec 20, 2020 at 16:00

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