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I want to ask a question about the passive.

Let's see this sentence:

"I want to eat the food"

What is its correct passive sentence?

Is it?

" The food wants to be eaten "

or

" The food is wanted to be eaten "

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    Neither. The second is ungrammatical, and the first means something entirely different from the original sentence (food generally does not have any kind of desire one way or another: you're the one wanting, not the food). The original sentence is not one anyone would ever passivise in normal speech. If you really need to, you could say “To eat the food is wanted by me”… but people will think you're very strange if you go around saying things like that. May 4, 2017 at 23:00
  • How about this : I want the food to be eaten. Is it correct?
    – abdali waarabe
    May 4, 2017 at 23:35
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    That doesn't mean the same thing because it doesn't express that you want the food to be eaten by you. May 4, 2017 at 23:43
  • One could argue the transformation I want blah -> blah is wanted, giving "To eat the food is wanted", but that results in an awkward sentence.
    – Lawrence
    Jun 13, 2017 at 12:18
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    @SovereignSun "the food is wanted" is fine, but "the food is wanted to be eaten" is awkward. It would be better to say "The food is wanted for consumption". I suspect it's because the word wanted more naturally associates with "... to be eaten" (leading to difficulty when parsing the sentence) than with the intended "the food is ...". The trailing "by me" also doesn't go well with the passive voice in that sentence. I suspect this is because by me is already implied. "The food is wanted by the field office" doesn't sound as bad.
    – Lawrence
    Oct 24, 2017 at 22:50

1 Answer 1

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The clause "I want to eat the food" does not have any universally-accepted passive counterpart.

Your first suggestion, "The food wants to be eaten", is perfectly grammatical, but its meaning is different: it says that the food wants you to eat it, not that you want to eat it. So it sounds rather surreal.

Your second suggestion, "The food is wanted to be eaten", is marginal at best: some native speakers do produce such sentences (at least on occasion), but it's probably not part of Standard English. If you're interested, Dr. Neal Whitman of the Ohio State University has documented various instances that he's found "in the wild": <https://literalminded.wordpress.com/category/syntax/passive-voice/double-passives/>.

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