I found a question written as in one of my books:

What is the number of bytes needed for an instruction to store in memory?

I believe the bold part makes the sentence in mediopassive voice. Isn't it more common to find this structure instead:

What is the number of bytes needed for(or by) an instruction to get stored in memory?

Is the original sentence is grammatically correct and in usage just as it stands? What do you think about the alternative provided by me, what's the difference?

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    These geeks can't write. I would say it is: How many bytes are needed for storing an instruction in memory. – Lambie Dec 22 '17 at 3:34
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    Thanks for introducing me to "mediopassive," I guess. I still can't say that I understand it. All I know is that the original sentence doesn't actually make sense or sound natural to me. Your rewrite is better. @Lambie's is better again. But they all kind of suck. Do all instructions require the same number of bytes? If not, then what's up with the indefinite article? And isn't "stored" just implied? What's wrong with: "How many bytes of memory does an (or this) instruction need?" Maybe I'm just lacking context. – joiedevivre Dec 22 '17 at 3:58
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    To this US English speaker, to be stored sounds a lot more natural than to get stored. – stangdon Dec 22 '17 at 15:51
  • @stangdon In the first sentence, isn't it implying mediopassive? – Anubhav Singh Dec 23 '17 at 8:16
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    @AnubhavSingh - I honestly don't really understand mediopassive. All I know is that get sounds ugly to me there, and overuse of get is a hallmark of non-native English speakers. – stangdon Jan 2 '18 at 18:42

Thanks for introducing me to the grammatical concept of mediopassive voice which is described at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediopassive_voice

[Extract] The mediopassive voice is a grammatical voice that subsumes the meanings of both the middle voice and the passive voice (...) A few examples of verbs in English with meanings similar to a mediopassive:

The book reads well.

The trousers wash easily.

Ripe oranges peel well.

The book was not selling.

Based on this extract, the sentence you quoted is indeed an example of mediopassive voice:

What is the number of bytes needed for an instruction to store in memory?

Your rewriting it as "to be stored" is also correct but there is nothing wrong in context with the original sentence: the meaning does not change significantly by writing it as "to store" and the only 'difference' is that 'instruction' mediopassively becomes the subject rather than object of the verb 'to store' in this particular construction.

In a sense this difference "empowers" the former object by apparently giving it some agency: when written this way, "to store" is depicted as an action performed by 'instruction' when certain conditions (like number of characters) are satisfied, just as a book when well-written actually reads well rather than simply getting read -- that is the more interesting element of this concept.


Both ways are correct, but the latter is certainly more common and probably stylistically better. To say

What is the number of bytes needed for an instruction to store in memory?

makes "instruction" the active party. That's a little odd, but a lot of computer usage is odd. I would not write this, but I wouldn't think twice about it if I read it in a computer book. A slight tweak of your second option is more natural

What is the number of bytes needed for an instruction to be stored in memory?

Still isn't great writing, though. If I was to write this myself, I would say

How many bytes are required to store an instruction in memory?


How many bytes are needed to store an instruction in memory?

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