• They are talking about her.

Assuming we have this sentence that needs to be made passive, what do we get?

My variant is:

  • She is being talked about.

But I'm guessing this isn't right and there is no passive for "talk about".

  • This is called a 'prepositional passive', permitted when the oblique (the object of the preposition) is affected by the action of the verb. Nov 22 '17 at 0:21
  • @StoneyB So assuming we have some other prepositional phrase, can we use it in a similar way? Nov 22 '17 at 3:44
  • 1
    Folks, comments are not for chit-chat or sharing of personal information. If you want to chat, get a chat room. @NicholasCastagnola
    – ColleenV
    Nov 27 '17 at 13:16

"She's being talked about" is a valid, well-attested prepositional passive construction of "they are talking about her".

Not all prepositional phrases can be used this way, however. As @StoneyB said, the complement of the preposition usually needs to have a semantic role of Affected—it must be affected by the action denoted by the verb. Otherwise, it's not possible:

?Boston was arrived in by him—unidiomatic

Note that Preposition Stranding is obligatory in this construction, so it's usually avoided in formal writing.


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