I have a question about using passive voice when someone asks someone else to do something.

When there are several people in a room and a woman asks a man to open the window, you can say

She asked him to open the window.

In the same room, if the woman asked someone to open the window but the people couldn't tell whom she was asking, is it fine to describe the event using passive voice like this?

She asked the window to be opened.

2 Answers 2


Your phrase is not grammatical. “Ask” is a transitive verb and requires an object (explicit or implicit). That object may indicate who is the intended actor or what is the indicated action..

She asked the window …

means that the window is the intended actor and that therefore the verb denoting the action must be in the active voice. So if she had a magic window (made presumably by the same firm that made Ali Baba’s door), we could say

She asked the [magic] window to open.

However, to get your intended meaning across grammatically, say

She asked that the window be opened.

Now the clause introduced by “that” refers to the intended action. The intended actor is unspecified, and the passive voice is required.

EDIT As FumbleFingers noted in the comment below, what I said was grammatical above was in a very formal register. Most people do not use passive subjunctives at all, let alone in conversation or informal writing. I was trying to stay close to your original. Much more common in U.S. speech would be forms like

She asked for the window to be opened

She asked that someone open the window.

My feeling is that in my part of the U.S., the first of those might be somewhat more common, but I cannot validate that feeling by any authority.

  • I think the subjunctive "that-clause" is a bit "literary" for the average learner wanting to know what the average native speaker might say here. More naturally in a relaxed informal context: She asked for the window to be opened. Jun 9, 2021 at 13:16
  • @FumbleFingers I agree and shall edit. Jun 9, 2021 at 13:35

She asked for the window to be opened.

In the above sentence "for" is used to request help. In your original sentence you "ask the window" which you obviously cannot do.

For; preposition (HELP) in order to help someone:

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