Become with Passive Voice

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Apr 28 15:40:45 UTC 2009

At 10:49 AM -0400 4/28/09, Baker, John wrote:
>         The passive voice usually requires the use of to be, or
>sometimes to get, as an auxiliary verb.  Can to become, or other
>auxiliary verbs, also be used?  Authoritative sources seem to differ, or
>perhaps I simply fail to understand them correctly.
P.S.  One large set of lexical adjectives with passive participle
morphology, that co-occur with both "become" and "come" are the

The package (be)came unwrapped.
My trousers have (be)come unzipped.
The plan has (be)come untracked.

Which is not to say that "come" and "become" have the same
distribution with adjectival passives; the former really needs the
"un-" prefix, even when it's redundant:

The squid (be)came unfrozen/unthawed/thawed.
The squid became thawed/*came thawed.

The knot (be)came untied/unloosened/loose/loosened.
The knot came untied/unloosened/loose/*loosened.

But "become" as a general inchoative seems to do fine with all
change-of-state (or actually result-of-change-of-state) adjectives,
including participial ones.  But these are usually distinguished from
true verbal passive structures, which allow agents and such.

I don't know what the sources, authoritative and others, say, but I
imagine many of them say it with gusto.


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