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In this section we will be dealing with impersonal passive constructions with verbs of saying or
believing. These constructions are then a mixture of passive constructions and reported speech.

I have taken this information and many of the examples from The Grammar of Spoken and Written
English (Biber et al., 1999)1, New Proficiency Gold (Newbrook and Wilson, 2001)2, Advanced
Language Practice (Vince, 2003)3, Alexander (1990)4.

Verbs of saying and believing can be found in the following patterns.

1. Active:

People say: ‘ He is a thief.’  People say (that) he is a thief.


1.a. It is said that he is a thief. (It + passive verb + that-clause + subject)

1.b. He is said to be a thief. (Subject + passive verb + present/perfect to-inf)

2. Active:

People say: ‘There is plenty of oil off our own coast.’  People say that there is plenty of oil
off our own coast.


2.a. It is said that there is plenty of oil off our own coast. (It + passive verb + that-clause +
existential there-clause )

1 BIBER, D., L. Johanson, G.Leech, S. Conrad, E.Finegan. (1999) Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English.


2 NEWBROOK, J. & J. WILSON (2001) New Proficiency Gold. Longman

3 VINCE, M 2009 Advanced Language Practice: English Grammar and Vocabulary. Macmillan

ALEXANDER, L. G. (1990) Longman English Grammar Practice. Longman.

 It will be rumoured that he is a spy. (There + passive verb + to be) SOME FORMAL ASPECTS OF THESE PASSIVE CONSTRUCTIONS  When the reported action/state has the same temporal reference as the passive reporting verb.  He is rumoured to be planning to resign. . There is said to be plenty of oil off our own coast.  He was rumoured to be a spy.  It is rumoured that he is a spy.  He is rumoured to be a spy.  It was rumoured that he was a spy.  It is rumoured that he was a spy in World War II.  It will be alleged that she was not aware of anything.  He is expected to resign next month.  He will be rumoured to be a spy. or to a time which is future in relation to the passive reporting verb.  She will be alleged not to have been aware of anything.b.  She was believed to have been living in Scotland.  The thief was thought to have left the house.  It was thought that the thief had left the house.  It is believed that Smith left England last week. the reported action is expressed with the perfect infinitive. the verb referring to the reported action/state is used in the to-infinitive. 2.  It is rumoured that he is planning to resign.  Smith is believed to have left England last week.  It was believed that she had been living in Scotland.  When the reported action/state took place/will take place before the action/state denoted by the passive verb of thinking or saying.  He is rumoured to have been a spy in World War II.  It is expected that he will resign next month.

b) and (2. An unemployed teenager sharing a house with a family was assumed to have a separate .  It is thought that he didn’t commit the crime. income.b)above.) Note: Active: People fear that he hasn’t responded to the treatment.  When the action in the subordinate clause refers to the future. V DO INF (future reference) Passive: Bradley is expected to get the contract. Compare: Active: Everyone expects Bradley to get the contract. (NEWS) . especially (1. X ungramatical Passive: * Fines are hoped to discourage littering. *People hope fines to discourage littering.  He is not thought to have committed the crime.) USE OF THESE PASSIVE CONSTRUCTIONS These passive constructions. V that-clause with past reference Passive: He is feared not to have responded to the treatment. and often lower. the second pattern above is only possible if the verb in the active sentence has an object and an infinitive. (It is feared that he hasn’t responded to the treatment. (It is expected that Bradley will get the contract) and Active: People hope that fines will discourage littering.  He is thought not to have committed the crime. but they occur quite frequently in news and academic prose. X (It is hoped that fines will discourage littering. are rare in conversation and infrequent in fiction.

5bn. asphalt. (NEWS) Of the various materials used. Tens of thousands of phantom azalea bushes and geraniums are believed to be alive and growing in the gardens of Northern Ireland. wooden slats. rubber mats or damp straw can be said to be neutral types of floor. (ACAD) The speaker using these constructions:  avoids sounding assertive  tries to sound objective  expresses caution. tentativeness . (NEWS) The costs are claimed to be 2.