Note: English isn't my main language.
I have a question about the passive form, I think the following paragraph has a strange "form" of a passive context, here it is:

Prodded by hunger, the female dolphin approached the ships which harbored next to the island, despite the danger posed by them.

I was asked to point out the passive verbs and point to the "makers" of the actions and the "receivers".

So I got confused here:

... despite the danger posed by them.

You could see it as the danger is the reciver and them (the ships) are the "makers", but when I thought about the full 'idea' of the text I thought that it would be better to address the whole section like this:
1) The danger is a situation that is a derived state coming from the ships to the fem dolphin.
2) If I were to look at that section as a separate sentence then it is right to say that the danger is in fact passive (in my opinion), but if you take into consideration the context of the paragraph it could be seen as:
-The female dolphin was posed danger by the ships, making the dolphin in the passive state.
- The danger posed by them affected the dolphin.

My question is, could you say that the passive form is also in relation to the dolphin, and not just the danger?

  • "prodded" and "posed" are the passive verbs in the sentence. The danger is posed by the ships to dolphins (but since they are prodded by hunger, they approach the ships). – some user Aug 5 '12 at 19:35
  • @canpolat, can you comment on my opinion? – funerr Aug 5 '12 at 20:02
  • The danger is caused by the ships ('maker') and is targeted to dolphins ('receiver'). I, perhaps, don't understand the question. – some user Aug 5 '12 at 20:08
  • @canpolat, so what I noted could be valid? (that the danger caused by the ships can target the dolphins). – funerr Aug 5 '12 at 20:13
  • to answer that, we need more context. Are the ships dangerous in some other sense? Just looking at that sentence, the only danger I interpret is the danger targeting the dolphin. – some user Aug 5 '12 at 20:17

'Danger' is the direct object of 'pose', 'dolphin' is the indirect object. Technically, yes, you could transform this into

1) The ships posed the dolphin a danger 2) The ships posed a danger to the dolphin. 3) The dolphin was posed a danger by the ships. 4) A danger was posed to the dolphin by the ships.

BUT: While you can say "The ships posed a danger" or "A danger was posed by the ships", you can NOT say "The ships posed the dolphin" or "The dolphin was posed by the ships".

If that's not clear, try substituting 'throw' ('threw', 'thrown') for 'pose' ('posed') and 'fish' for danger.

  • Thanks for the answer, but I just want to get it straight, is the dolphin passive (can he be?, in regard to context) in regard to the danger posed by the ships? – funerr Aug 5 '12 at 21:23
  • Ah! ... Only utterances/sentences/clauses or verbs can be characterized as 'passive'. 'Dolphin' can be the subject of a passive sentence ONLY if it's clear that something else is the direct object. You could, however, make the acceptable passive sentence "The dolphin was threatened by the ships." – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 5 '12 at 22:22
  • But can I say it is passive, i.e. "the danger is brought upon her"? can I make the relation between her and the danger, as the ships posed danger to her. – funerr Aug 6 '12 at 15:26
  • 1
    @agam360 - W e l l . . . syntactically and grammatically you can express this passively with 'danger' as the subject, but lexically it's hard to conceive a situation where you should. Terms like 'danger', 'threat', 'peril' &c by and large characterize the relationship between the subject and something else, so transforming the grammatical and syntactical relationship is likely to be awkward. – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 6 '12 at 15:50
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    @agam360 - Plausible? I'm a writer, so I'm professionally obliged to believe everything! – StoneyB on hiatus Aug 6 '12 at 16:39

Strictly speaking, the words "prodded" and "posed" are not the passive voice. They're -ed or participial clauses with a passive meaning.

A whole relative clause (e.g. despite the danger that is posed by them) illustrates the passive voice.

In any case, the verb in the participial clause is "pose" and, this being the case, the receiver of the action of the verb "pose" should be "danger" and its doer "ships" -- like what you initially suspected. It can't be "dolphins" because you can't say:

The dolphins are posed by the ships. 

Here's a definition of the word from Macmillan. "Pose" is a transitive verb and means:

to create a difficult or dangerous situation

pose a problem/ difficulty/ risk/ threat

For a list of example sentences that further demonstrates its usage, here's a link to Dictionary.com.

In short, the original passive voice of the participial clause "posed by them" is:

The danger is posed by the ships. 
  • What about "The dolphin was posed danger by the ships. "? as you said they posed danger towards the dolphin, could she be also a receiver? (and you said that pose is to create danger, so how come the danger is passive? it is another way to emphasize the creation for danger by "posed") – funerr Aug 6 '12 at 15:23
  • Did you take a look at the link I posted? Note there that none of the common examples of the verb "pose" is in the pattern you're suggesting. I guess what's happening is you're attacking the whole passive topic purely semantically (i.e. "Could the dolphin also be a receiver?" when I already posted the "The dolphins are posed = X.") – Cool Elf Aug 6 '12 at 17:21
  • Also, you ask "Why is the word "danger" in passive?" Why not? Passive is a structure. I can say: "Danger is posed" in the same way I can say: "Danger was avoided." Like I said, it's just a matter of construction. – Cool Elf Aug 6 '12 at 17:23
  • I am in fact attacking the topic (specifically in this sentence), but can I suggest that the dolphin is passive "semantically"? (is it fine to say so?) that's basically my question. – funerr Aug 6 '12 at 19:19
  • I think you misunderstood my use of the word "attack." I only meant to say that you're "turning your mind vigorously to" the topic. As for your recurring question, you forget something important: participial clauses are primarily meant to modify and thus direct the action (passively) to the nouns near them. Other examples: "the man injured," "the money stolen from..." etc. – Cool Elf Aug 7 '12 at 16:47

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