Hello

I find the following sentence in the exercise. In the case of the verb "buy", I wonder if person can be the subject in the passive sentence. I know it is OK with the verb "give"

The sentence is this:
#1 I was bought a nice bicycle for my birthday by my father.
Is this grammatically accepted?

Thank you.
Last edited {1}
Original Post
Indirect object constructions with and without "for" in American English differ slightly from those in British English. In American English, indirect object constructions with verbs such as "buy," "make," "cook," "draw" "find," or other verbs of creating, obtaining, or preparing do not generally allow the recipient to become the grammatical subject of a passive sentence. We can say "A nice bicycle was bought for me" but not *I was bought a nice bicycle." (I should add that an American linguist friend on whom I tried this sentence says that it's OK with him.)

British English is somewhat different. Celce-Murcia and Larsen-Freeman* mention that, while the sentence "Sandra was made this dress (by Arlene)" is "questionable" in American English, several native speakers of British English have indicated to us that this sentence is acceptable in their dialect." (pp. 373, 378.) Huddleston and Pullum** say, in effect, that it is not completely acceptable, but that "many speakers find [this construction] marginally possible." (p. 249)

From my own reading of fiction and nonfiction by British English speakers I can report that such a construction occurs with a few, though not many, verbs. Here are a few examples from Google, many of which seem to be British English:

"” I was bought a car before I even earned my drivers permit. Was I spoiled? I wouldn't say so.

"” While receiving cancer treatment he passed his driving test and was bought a car by his mum as a reward.

"” He was found a job by the Neo-Classical artist Jacques-Louis David but died in obscurity.

"” He was found a job there purely by chance by a neighbour of the Paines (with whom Marina Oswald lodged) who worked there.

"” Through Stuart he was found a job at the Drive-In, directing the cars and cleaning windscreens.

"” Someone was smiling down on me because the next hotel I walked into (even though the girl spoke no English) was free and I was booked a room for 68 US dollars.

"” Compare prices with: QuickCheck. By recom[m]endation by a travel agency, I was booked a room at the El Pueblito Beach Hotel, Cancun, Mex.

"” BAM! I was booked a room at the Courtyard by Marriott on the Upper East Side for Friday and Saturday night at my asking price. I was floored!

"” I was ordered a small portion from the children's menu and my mother helped feed it to me. People kept looking in through the window and smiling as they walked by, and I though that they were staring at me.

"” In October's edition he could announce; "I am glad to be at home again after a long absence. On coming out of the Infirmary I was ordered a complete rest."

"” There are great opportunities or advancement in club/disco DJ'ing - providing, of course, that you wish to make a career of it. I didn't, but I was made some unreal offers.

(This last example, although it involves a verb of "creating," actually illustrates the "to," not the "for," relation.)

The number of examples of all these verbs on Google is very small, however, and seem to be confined to very informal style.

Marilyn Martin

*The Grammar Book: An ESL/EFL Teacher's Course, Second Edition (Heinle & Heinle, 1999)

** The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002)

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