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Hello David,

My apologies for the confusion. Let me clarify below.

In the case where we want to let people know that I'am infected by corona virus because the result is positive. Why do people normally say:

I tested positive (active voice), instead of I was tested positive (passive voice). I thought the later is more correct. Please kindly provide me an explanation.

@Tony C posted:
Why do people normally say:

I tested positive (active voice), instead of I was tested positive (passive voice). I thought the later is more correct.

Hello, Tony—The latter is not more correct. Indeed, in my opinion, the latter is incorrect. "Tested" is not being used transitively in the construction, so passivization does not make sense. We would not say, "The doctor tested him positive for HIV," so why would we say, "He was tested positive for HIV"?

The verb "test" is intransitive here; it means "to achieve a rating as a result of a test" or "to exhibit a given characteristic when subjected to a test." There is no way to passivize intransitive constructions. For example, you can't change a sentence like "He laughed" to "He was laughed."

Interestingly, the verb can be followed by other adjectives besides "positive" and "negative." Consider that we can say, "He tested high," "They tested low," "It tested resistant to chemical XYZ," "She tested pregnant." It can even be followed by noun phrases: "He tested the best in his class."

I do not deny that the passive construction you have used occasionally occurs; however, I do not consider it correct. To illustrate, if I heard someone say, "She was tested pregnant," I would assume that the meaning was not that she tested pregnant but that she took a test while she was pregnant!

The complementation pattern "test [adjective phrase]" is an interesting one and one that is not much discussed in grammar books. I am inclined to parse it as a reduced version of a construction in which "as" or "as being" is used before the adjective phrase (or noun phrase):

  • He tested as (being) positive for HIV. --> He tested positive for HIV.
  • It tested as (being) resistant to XYZ. --> It tested resistant to XYZ.
  • She tested as (being) pregnant. --> She tested pregnant.
  • He tested as being the best in his class. --> He tested the best in his class.
Last edited by David, Moderator

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