1

Our holiday was cost a lot of money because we stayed in an expensive hotel.

vs

Our holiday cost a lot of money because we stayed in an expensive hotel.

What sentence is correct? If the first one is not correct, please explain me why Passive Voice is not appropriate here. Thanks!

2 Answers 2

1

the verb cost cannot usually be used in the passive.

X costs Y.

  • The trip costs y [amount].
  • A holiday costs a lot of money.
  • Those shoes cost 500 euros.

The only exception is in some accounting texts where accountants might say:

items were/are costed [at some amount]

as found in this text:

costed

That usage is specific to what is called cost accounting.

It means to assign a cost to something. It is quite common in accounting.

2

The argument structure of the verb cost is:

X (goods or services) cost Y (sum of money or other value) to Z (purchaser).

The goods or services - the thing sold - is the subject of cost, so your sentence needs to be active.

In fact, cost is hardly ever used in the passive. (I couldn't find a single example in the iWeb corpus - all the examples of BE + 'cost' that it gave me were either using "cost" as a noun, or in phrases such as "cost effective"). Instead we use other strategies:

The book cost me £7.95. (normal, active)

The cost of the book [to me] was £7.95. (not the book was cost £7.95 [to me]).

It cost me £7.95 to buy the book. (not I was cost £7.95 for the book).

4
  • Well, cost is used passively in accounting, even in the UK: 90% of items were costed at national chain stores such as Tesco and Argos. epubs.surrey.ac.uk/806758/1/RESOLVE_WP_05-09.pdf
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 19:38
  • @Lambie: Different verb (or at least, different sense): the OED's definition 5. There is a note: "In this sense the usual past tense and past participle form is costed (not cost), and (unlike in other senses) use in the passive is frequent and regular."
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 19:47
  • Yes, exactly, which is what I said in my answer. I said it was an exception and only applied to accounting. That's good enough for me. The verb is not really "different" as it means to assign a cost to something, which is rather obvious.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 20:00
  • I see it as a causitive, but semantically I suppose it's no different from verbs like heat, that can be transitive or unaccusative. But morphologically, the fact that it takes different forms makes it a different verb. But it's not worth arguing about.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 21:16

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