LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 39, No.3 - Fall 1993
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas, University of Rochester
Copyright © 1993 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
THE TWO KINDS OF PASSIVE VOICE IN LITHUANIAN
University of Rochester
In our Introduction to Modern Lithuanian1 and in our article, rather lengthy, on the Lithuanian participles2, we state that Lithuanian has two types of passive voice. This is due to the fact that Lithuanian has, all told, three passive participles: the present tense passive participle, in -mas, the past tense passive participle in -tas, and the future passive participle in -simas. In order to acquaint the non-specialist with these, we shall give here several examples:
matyti 'to see'
virti 'to cook'
| Present passive participle
matomas 'the one visible'
verdamas 'being boiled, cooked'
Past passive part
| Future passive participle
matysimas 'the thing to be seen'
virsimas 'the thing to be cooked.'
Theoretically, there could be three types of passive voice in Lithuanian: one with the present passive participle, one with the past passive participle, and one with the future passive participle. However, the third type is hardly ever used, except in indirect speech and in a few other special expressions.3
Before we plunge, as it were, into the discussion of the two basic types of passive voice in Lithuanian, let us briefly say a few words on the passive voice in general.
In English, for example, the passive voice occurs with only one passive participle for the simple reason that there is only ONE passive participle in English. In addition to that, the passive voice, in English, is limited, as in all modern Indo-European languages, to the intransitive verbs of a certain type. In other words, it combines the English auxiliary verb 'to be' and the past participle:
| The book is (being) written.
The book was (being) written.
The book has been written.
The book had been written.
The book will be written.
The book will have been written.
Adding "being" carries some sense of the action in process, not yet completely finished.
We should note here that 'being' is usually added only in the present and in the simple past tense: after all, in English the sentence The book will be being written, is at best very awkward.
Thus, in English, the so-called actional, or real, passive can be used, as we have just seen, primarily in the present tense and in the (simple) past tense, also known as preterit, or imperfect tense.
In German, on the other hand, there are, in practical terms, also two kinds of passive voice: the actional, or real, passive, with the auxiliary verb werden 'to become, to turn into', and the so-called statal passive, or resultative passive, used with the auxiliary verb sein 'to be'.
Das Buch wird geschrieben
The book is being written'
Das Buch wurde geschrieben
The book was (being) written'
Das Buch ist geschrieben worden
'The book has been written'
Das Buch wird geschrieben werden
'The book will be written'
Das Buch wird geschrieben worden sein
'The book will have been written'
Das Buch ist (schon) geschrieben.
The book is already written' = (ready)
Das Buch war (schon) geschrieben.
The book was written' = (finished)
Theoretically, the statal passive, with the auxiliary verb sein 'to be', could also have all the six tenses, but, in practice, only the two are used: the present tense, and the simple past tense. Only in the so-called ungrammatical German one can run into more tenses with sein.4
But in both of the closely related Germanic languages, i.e., English and German, there is only ONE past passive participle, such as in English: seen, spoken, worked, been, etc. and in German: gesehen, gesprochen, gearbeitet, gewesen, etc. From the semantic point of view, these English and German passive participles can also be used as active participles, as follows:
|In English:|| I have written a letter.
I had written a letter.
I will have written a letter.
|In German:|| Ich have einen Brief geschrieben.
Ich hatte einen Brief geschrieben.
Ich werde einen Brief geschrieben haben.
Now, in Lithuanian there are four active participles,5 as for example, skaityti 'to read'
Present active participle:
Past active participle:
Frequentative past active p.:
Future active participle:
skaitąs/skaitanti 'one who is
Therefore, there are FOUR active participles, and all kinds of compound tenses may be formed with them.6
Since there are THREE passive participles in Lithuanian, then, theoretically, THREE kinds of the passive voice should be available, as it were, in Lithuanian: one each with each passive participle and auxiliary verb.7
However, only TWO major passive participles, the present passive participles in -mas, and the past passive participles in -tas are actually used. 8
Since very few textbooks of Lithuanian give all of these passive voice tenses in full, we shall list them here in full, in all four major tenses.
|The actional passive||The statal passive|
| Present tense
aš esu matomas, matoma
aš esu matytas, matyta
Simple past tense
aš buvau matomas/matoma
| Simple past tense
aš buvau matytas/matyta
|Frequentative past tense
aš būdavau matomas/matoma
| Frequentative past
aš būdavau matytas/matyta
NB. This tense is really very seldom used in both of these versions. Only in certain descriptions as well as in the so-called "officialese," or, as the British put it, the "office bumph, or bumf."
aš būsiu matomas/matoma
| Future tense
aš būsiu matytas/matyta
Subjunctive Present tense
aš būčiau matomas/matoma
| Subjunctive Present tense
aš būčiau matytas/matyta
As is commonly known, the passive voice is, in practical terms, a selective voice: its usage is determined, above all, by the logical possibility and the need. For example, if we take the simple transitive verb pirkti 'to buy, to purchase,' then theoretically, all the tenses, as listed above, are possible, but many a form will not be used because of the practical impossibility. For example, one could say "Aš esu smarkiai perkamas," or using the feminine form, "Aš esu labai perkama," literally, "I am being bought lustily," but in real life, at least in almost all modern Indo-European languages, such a phrase would be used, if ever, only when you have some animation, as in a play where the toys are bragging about being very popular, like before the Christmas time...
Therefore, in spite of the fact that we have just, above, given full conjugational paradigms of the Lithuanian passive voice of both kinds, in practice both kinds are used very selectively, and, very often, if in the present tense, without the auxiliary verb būti 'to be'.
Generally speaking, the passive voice, can be easily replaced by the active voice, and only certain generalities will occur, without fail, in one or the other kind of passive voice. We shall give, below, some of the most commonly used such phrases.
The actional/real passive:
/1/ Sustoti draudžiama! - "No stopping!" /Cf. Ger. Halten
/2/ Čia kalbama lietuviškai. "Lithuanian spoken here."
/3/ Čia statomi tik mūriniai namai. "Only brick homes are built here."
/4/ Kaip tai daroma? "How is that done?"
/5/ Iš ko kepama duona? "Out of what bread is being baked?"
/6/ Kur gaminami šie batai? "Where are these shoes manufactured?"
/7/ Tada pilys dar buvo statomos iš medžio. "At that time, castles were built of wood."
/8/ Matematika bus dėstoma nuo antro skyriaus. "Mathematics will be taught from the second grade."
/9/ Kur dar yra kalbama čiuvašiškai? "Where is Chuvash still being spoken?"
The statal/resultative passive:
/1/ Baigta! Viskas baigta! "The end! All finished! Kaput!"
/2/ Pasakyta parašyta "It's all written here what I said."
/3/ Kur girdėta, kad jis man padėtų! "It's unheard of that he would ever help me."
/4/ Kiek čia alaus išgerta! "Lots of beer has been drunk here."
/5/ Čia jų tais laikais gyventa. "They used to live here in those times."
/6/ Kiek čia gėlių prisodinta "So many flowers had been planted here."
/7/ Jis yra tikrai velnio neštas ir pamestas." This man certainly had gone through hell and high water." (Literally: 'Here is a man whom the devil had carried and then dropped.")
/8/ Taip nebuvo šnekėta/kalbėta/susitarta/numatyta.. "This was not our agreement/talk/covenant..."
/9/ Taip ir sutarta! 'That's the way it will be!"
/10/ Viskas bus padaryta. "Everything will be done."
/11/ Čia, matyt, jų gulėta. "They had apparently been lying here."
1. Theoretically, any phrase in the active voice, particularly
one with a transitive verb, could be transformed into the passive voice like so:
Active : The boy throws/threw/has thrown/had thrown/will throw/would throw...the ball.
Passive: The ball is/was/ has been/had been/will be thrown by the boy.
But, in practice, only a very small portion of the normally used active voice is rendered also into the passive voice.
2. The passive voice, especially in all modern Indo-European languages, is used less in everyday conversational patterns, but is used more in formal texts, particularly descriptive texts, such as history, natural sciences and the like.
3. There is also the subjunctive perfect/or past/tense, like so: Aš būčiau buvęs matomas 'I would have been seen,' but it is used only in some unreal /contrary-to-fact/ if-clauses.
1 Leonardas Dambriūnas, Antanas Klimas, and William R. Schmalstieg, Introduction to Modern Lithuanian, Franciscan Fathers Press, Brooklyn, N.Y., 457 pages. 1st edition: 1966; 2nd edition: 1972; 3rd edition: 1980; 4th edition:
2 Antanas Klimas, "The Lithuanian Participles: Their System and Functions," Lituanus, Vol. 33 (1987), No. 1, pp. 38-73.
3 In many of these special expressions, both participles, the present passive participle as well as the past passive participle are used, mostly, as adjectives. Their historical development, however, shows that they were originally participles.
4 Several examples of this type of the so-called ungrammatical usage of German passive voice can be found in Ludwig Thomas' Lausbubengeschichten.
5 For a complete description, cf. Introduction to Modern Lithuanian, op. cit, particularly pages 438 ff. and the article by Antanas Klimas, cited in Footnote #2.
6 Many a linguist, or, more exactly, many a grammarian and/or syntactician, does not even consider those compound tenses as verbal tenses proper. Rather, some of these modern syntacticians consider any participle to be an adjective. After all, they maintain, syntactically, there is ho difference between the two following sentences:
Jonas yra drąsus - 'John is courageous'
Jonas yra pavargęs. - 'John is tired'
7 Again, theoretically almost any verb meaning some change, moving, becoming, turning into, etc., could be used as an auxiliary to form the passive voice, but in Standard Literary Lithuanian only the verb būti 'to be' is so used, somewhat similar to only the compound tenses of Classical Latin.
8 Both of these participles, i.e., the one in -mas and the one in -tas are inherited from Proto-Indo-European. For a more detailed discussion, cf. Antanas Klimas Lietuvių kalbos dalyvių vartosena/ 'The Usage of the Lithuanian Participles'/, to appear in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 1993.
9 Both of the Lithuanian passive participles used in forming these two types of the passive voice are inflected as to case, number, and gender. Cf. Introduction to Modem Lithuanian, op. cit., particularly pages 460 ff.