I had an English exam a couple of weeks ago and one of the questions asked us to highlight an active sentence in a poem and then change it into a passive version.

The only option in this poem was:

Lefties deserve much respect.

The so-called correct answer was/is:

Much respect is deserved (by lefties).

I am a native speaker studying to be an English teacher in Belgium. In Flemish it is very common to use a passive sentence when we would use an active sentence (and vice versa).

As a native speaker the sentence sounds completely wrong but I do not have the technical expertise to explain why to the teacher. The only thing I can find about using deserve in the passive tense is when it lends a passive meaning to a following -ing form. I am using Michael Swan's book. I did get the answer 'correct', but it used valuable time – which could of been better used elsewhere.

This has literally been bugging me non-stop since, please help!

  • eek! …which could have been better used elsewhere.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 9, 2018 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


Don’t take my answer seriously, and I am not a native speaker, but I would like to have an input in giving answer as the way I understood.

Grammatically, the sentence is totally correct, but it isn’t common to use.

The purpose of the question is intended to shape itself as a grammar more than a meaning.

So the meaning isn’t necessary in question made such ways.

It sounds awkward, because there is a rule, as I think, implying: sometime

  • something limited (lefties) can belong to something in general (much respect); conversely, something in general unlimited (much respect) can’t belong to something limited (lefties)

We can say:

  • We deserve a better life.
  • We , the only people, deserve a better life.
  • we demand freedom

But we rarely hear people say:

  • life is deserved by us.
  • Because life could deserved by (every thing) by us, by animal, by exited athletes, by encouraged students, by good teacher. So you can get an extended number of what deserved by life.
  • Freedom is demanded by us.
  • Thanks to everyone for your inputs. The issue is definitely the verb 'deserve'. I am aware that the aim of the exercise was just to show that I could make the change. However, what is getting me is that the teacher (as well as other teachers at this school) believes that it is completely fine, both grammatically (which I agree on) and semantically. I question whether one would be better placed changing the verb deserve entirely to 'earned'. pt 1/2.
    – MR_ GB
    Feb 4, 2018 at 22:09
  • pt 2/2 "Much respect is earned by lefties" I think that semantically speaking it achieves what deserve does not, and it sounds a lot better when read. What are your thoughts on this? - Thanks GB
    – MR_ GB
    Feb 4, 2018 at 22:13

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