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How should I deal with 'relate' in this context?

Basque is the language which is spoken in northwestern Spain and southwestern France. It __________ (not/relate) to any other language in the world.

Lots of my Russian colleagues say that active voice should be used there, while I disagree. How can a language relate? It can or cannot be related. So, 'isn't related' is the right answer.

Am I correct?

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They aren't wrong. You can use "does not relate" there. See:
American Heritage Dictionary "relate"
v.intr. 1. To have connection, relation, or reference: how education relates to income; a question relating to foreign policy.

But, I don't see anything wrong with "is not related to".

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  • Oh, thank you:) Is 'is not related to' passive voice of the verb 'relate' or is it some other grammar form? – Vladimir Nazarenko Apr 17 at 21:39
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    The AH Dictionary shows that as an adjective: adj. 1. Being connected; associated. I don't think it's a passive verb form there, since that would be based on a transitive verb form. That would be a reference to someone having "related" Basque to something else. Then, you might say "Basque has not been related to another language.", meaning no one has related it to another language. – Jack O'Flaherty Apr 17 at 21:52
  • Well, I see. I wonder, how do you distinguish an adjective and a passive form. Let's say 'connected' is it either or both? – Vladimir Nazarenko Apr 17 at 21:56
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    See my edited comment. A passive form is based on a transitive form of the verb, and there should be a specifiable subject for that. Confer "is connected" in an adjective sense and "is connected by long cables" in a passive verb sense. I think there are cases where a distinction can't be made. – Jack O'Flaherty Apr 17 at 21:59
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'isn't related' tells us about what Basque 'is' or 'isn't'. 'doesn't relate' tells us about what it 'does' or 'doesn't do'. We more often talk about what a language 'is' (see the first sentence 'Basque is ...'). I would unhesitatingly say that 'isn't related' is the better answer, but, as Jack has explained, 'doesn't relate' is possible. To me, 'doesn't relate' is awkward here, but I can't explain why.

I would add that 'isn't related' here is not really a passive voice verb. Yes, it has the same form as a passive voice verb and it started as one, but it really is an adjective. We can test that by substituting an undoubted adjective like 'like': Basque isn't like any other language in the world.

Note that in terms of people, there is a big difference between 'Jack isn't related to his boss' and 'Jack doesn't relate to his boss'. In terms of languages, there probably isn't much difference.

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