Consider this one

Alice was eaten by that lion.

I am pretty sure it is both grammatical and idiomatic.

Consider this sentence

John ate his dinner.

I am 100% certain it is grammatical and idiomatic. How about this one?

The dinner was eaten by John.

I am also 100% certain it is grammatical. However, I am not so sure if it is idiomatic. Could someone please give a hint? Thanks in advance.

Note: I am aware the concept of active voice and passive voice, I just don't really understand the usage.

The examples are adapted Another post (What is "passive participle"?).

  • Always use active voice if possible. ('The dinner was eaten by John' is not the passive of 'John is eating his dinner')
    – Void
    Mar 25, 2020 at 7:17
  • The upside is, the lion isn't hungry any more. Neither is Alice. Mar 25, 2020 at 7:45

2 Answers 2


I think that this question have got no easy answer, in my opinion it's to broad and should be closed.

But let me explain the reasons using more words that a comment can contain.

All quotes has been take from the Oxford Dictionary:


Using, containing, or denoting expressions that are natural to a native speaker


  1. In accordance with the nature of, or circumstances surrounding, someone or something
    2.2(of a skill or quality) coming instinctively to a person; innate


Without conscious thought; by natural instinct

A native speaker feels that something does not sound right but he can not explain exactly why, by the self definition of idiomatic.

You are a native speaker of your languague, even if it's not English you should know what I mean.

  • So, the last example in my OP is not "not idiomatic", it just does not sound right. Is my understand right?
    – WXJ96163
    Mar 25, 2020 at 7:52
  • @WXJ96163 That's my opinion. I think that your question does not involve just your example but all other non-idiomatic phrases as well. To get what I mean just think about that sentence in your own language and play with the different ways of expressing it. You may find some non-idiomatic possibilities.
    – RubioRic
    Mar 25, 2020 at 8:04
  • 1
    It's not so much that it doesn't sound right, but I can't imagine any circumstances in which one would say it that way round. Mar 25, 2020 at 9:06
  • @KateBunting Well, I was over-simplifying, it's not a matter of something just sounding right. That's the reason for my vote to close. Too broad + opinion based.
    – RubioRic
    Mar 25, 2020 at 9:17

"The dinner was eaten by John" might be used in the situation where there was a question about who had eaten the dinner, and the sentence is identifying that it was John. Otherwise, you would just say something like "John ate the dinner [and then went to bed]."

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