0

There was a question in my exam yesterday which had unnecessarily odd wording, it goes like this:

Unless you make sure that the flowers ________ soon, they will go dead.

Passive-voice is used needlessly I believe. However, among the answers, 2 seemed to be both correct.

  1. be watered
  2. are watered

I would almost always go with: ... That the flowers ARE watered. However, is "be watered" possible too?

I think they both are correct but mean slightly different things.

Unless you make sure that the flowers are watered soon, they will go dead. : The emphasis is on "making sure", to be certain that they indeed are watered.

Unless you make sure that the flowers be watered soon, they will go dead. : The emphasis is on WATERING the flowers, which is a command.

Is this... right? Or am I just making it too complicated?

  • They will go dead is very strange wording. I don't think I've ever heard it before. It should simply be they will die. – Jason Bassford Jul 6 at 15:04
  • @JasonBassford I agree. There is no need for such convoluted, tortuous sentences to evaluate what the students know. The tests I find on reliable online sources are much better and easier to comprehend. – Pouya Jul 7 at 16:14
0

This sentence:

  • Unless the flowers are watered soon, they will go dead.

is grammatically correct. From a semantic point of view, this would perhaps be more logical:

  • Unless the plants are watered soon, the flowers will go dead.

or

  • Unless more water is added to the vases, the flowers will go dead.

The point is that flowers in gardens being watered are to be found on plants and I'm not sure that they can be said to be watered, as if they were the direct recipients of the action. The plants with flowers are.

Now, focusing on the original sentence:

Unless you make sure that the flowers ________ soon, they will go dead.

"make sure" is followed by indicative, not subjunctive. One makes sure something happens. That is why this is the correct answer to your exam question:

  • Unless you make sure that the flowers are watered soon, they will go dead.

There's nothing odd about saying that one should make sure that something happens. Alternatively, this can be said:

  • Unless you see to it that the flowers are watered soon, they will go dead.

"you" is therefore entrusted with the responsibility of having the flowers (or the plants) watered.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.