The plane was crashed and the passengers _________

perished (OR) were perished

The given answer is perished.

According to my understanding, Since and is a conjunction, it connects passive voice with passive voice. The part of the sentence before and is in passive voice. So is the part after and should also be in passive voice?

  • 8
    Aside: there is another usage of perished. "We were perished" means "We were very cold." See Lexico³. Jul 26, 2021 at 13:16
  • 7
    ...and another transitive use is "the rubber seal was perished (rotten)." Jul 26, 2021 at 13:33
  • 5
    I’m voting to close this question because it's asking us to interpret a text fragment that probably wasn't even written by a native speaker Jul 26, 2021 at 14:39
  • It could be the question is too basic, but in some languages the translation of passenger perished would be passengers are perished. (Italian is one of those languages.) I can understand why a user could be confused by how to correctly use the past tense in English, even though the comment by @charmer about "were" vs "are" also applies to Italian.
    – apaderno
    Jul 29, 2021 at 9:14
  • 1
    @charmer The use of 'were' implies that they are not perished anymore. i.e. they've risen from the dead Would "The spies were killed" mean that the spies are no longer dead? What about "The house was destroyed in the storm." does that imply the house was rebuilt? No.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 29, 2021 at 14:10

8 Answers 8


Passive voice can only be used with transitive verbs. That is, verbs with both a subject and an object. In the passive voice, the original subject is removed and the object becomes the new subject.

For example:

She ate the apple. ("the apple" is the object that "she" ate)

The apple was eaten. ("the apple" is the subject that someone ate)

The verb "to perish" is not a transitive verb in American English, and in British English the transitive usage applied to a person means "to be made very cold", so you can't put "to perish" meaning "to die" into the passive voice. That is, in the sentence below:

The passengers perished. (no object that the passengers act on)

there is no object to be "promoted" to subject in the passive voice. Writing "The passengers were perished," would mean, "someone perished the passengers," which is a nonsensical use of the verb perish.

Even your first clause, "The plane was crashed," is strange. If the active form is "The plane crashed," then there is no passive equivalent because crashed is an intransitive verb and there is no object in this clause.

It is possible to use "to crash" as a transitive verb, but this is rare and surprising for a plane and we'd usually have some extra word(s) to express how strange this was.

For example:

The pilot deliberately crashed the plane. (here, "the plane" is the object)

The plane was deliberately crashed.

Again, the plane is moved from object to subject, and we have the word deliberately to emphasize that this is the unusual transitive meaning rather than the much more typical intransitive meaning.

It is grammatically acceptable to mix transitive and intransitive in the same sentence:

The plane was loaded with cargo and took off shortly thereafter.

Here we have the passive "was loaded" followed by the active phrasal verb "took off."

  • 12
    When I hear "the plane was crashed" the first thing I think of is that time when NASA deliberately sent a Boeing 720 into the desert. There were no passengers in that case, and not even any pilots—the pilots were in the aircraft for takeoff and then parachuted out, and it was flown to the crash site by remote control.
    – randomhead
    Jul 26, 2021 at 13:54
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    @PeteKirkham I don't think your two examples sound grammatical. In fact, I'm not even sure what those sentences are trying to convey.
    – Kirk Woll
    Jul 26, 2021 at 22:56
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    @PeteKirkham I would say, "the brakes failed because the rubber hose had perished."
    – Kirk Woll
    Jul 26, 2021 at 23:02
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    @PeteKirkham I wonder if this is one of those British vs American English differences? I mean, I'd agree with Kirk that "was perished", "were perished", etc. sound flat-out ungrammatical, and I notice that both of us list our location as California.
    – David Z
    Jul 27, 2021 at 1:13
  • 5
    @PeteKirkham 'were broken' makes sense because 'broken' is also an adjective. 'Perished' is only a verb. Part of the issue is definitely US vs UK, though - merriam-webster.com gives two definitions of "perish" that it notes as "chiefly British", and one of them is a transitive verb.
    – Douglas
    Jul 27, 2021 at 4:43

The coordinating conjunction and doesn't have to carry over the passivity. Note that if it did coordinate passivity, you wouldn't repeat were anyway.

But what it depends on is the actual verb used. perish is intransitive, so it has no passive.

They will perish. They perished.

Actually, the use of the transitive/passive was crashed is odd here too. It suggests that someone chose to crash the plane. "The plane crashed" is expected.


All of these are grammtically correct:

The plane was crashed and the passengers were perished

  • For some reason the pilot deliberately crashed the plane. (Maybe controlled crash landing if it was on fire or something?)
  • All of the passengers were very cold (e.g. they landed on a mountain in winter)

The plane crashed and the passengers were perished.

  • The plane crashed for some unknown reason
  • The passengers were very cold

The plane was crashed and the passengers perished.

  • The plane was crashed deliberately for some reason
  • The passengers died

The plane crashed and the passengers perished.

  • The plane crashed for some unknown reason
  • The passengers died

How likely they are to be "the correct answer" depends on:

  1. the context of the rest of the piece
  2. the tone of voice of the rest of the piece
  3. what the examiner had in their head when they wrote the test question.

For example, I note that Collins Dictionary lists "were perished" as a primarily British usage, so you'd be less likely to find it in an American context. (It also sounds a little old fashioned to me, but that's a judgement call)

If all you're being asked about is grammar, either option is fine. If you're being asked for a stylistic choice or to fulfil a given meaning then one or the other may be "correct".

  • 4
    As a native American English speaker, the meaning of "were perished" ("were very cold"?) you used is unintelligible to me. I would have had no idea it could mean that, and would have had to look it up trying to figure out what it meant. Jul 27, 2021 at 15:53
  • 1
    @R..GitHubSTOPHELPINGICE, yeah I tried to touch on that at the end of my answer that it's probably more common over this way — within the UK, maybe even particularly in northern England I think, but would be also be perfectly understandable in Ireland. You could say "were perished with cold/hunger" — using "were perished" on its own feels like it has an unsaid, implied reason on the end (normally cold). Jul 27, 2021 at 16:00

"Perish" is an intranstive verb. It does not take an object. To use passive voice, you need a transitive verb. Therefore you cannot say "the passengers were perished".

However you can say, "The apples were perished." The reason is that "perished" is used like an adjective in that sentence.

You can also say, "The passengers perished." The reason is that "perished" is used in active voice in that sentence.


Preserving parallelism (that is, making the second part of the sentence passive voice because the first part is) has a low priority. Preserving parallelism is more of a stylistic issue, and grammatical rules take precedence. (And if we did have parallelism, it would allow us to omit the verb anyway, for instance in "The plane was sinking and the passengers drowning." there's an elliptical "were" before "drowning".)

As Canadian Yankee says, "perish" being an intransitive verb creates problems for the passive voice. In the passive voice construction "[noun] was [verbed]", the noun is what would be the object if the verb were in active voice. So that does imply the verb should be transitive. However, I don't think it's entirely correctly to say the passive voice requires a transitive verb; the noun can be an indirect object: "The store was gone to" is a bit awkward, but not grammatically incorrect. The real issue is that "passengers" simply is not the object, indirect or otherwise, of "perish". Putting in a transitive verb does not fix this issue, if passengers remain the subject of the verb. For instance, "The passengers gave up hope" can't be made into "The passengers were given up".

There's also the issue of whether "was crashed" actually is passive voice. It could be analyzed as simply past tense with "crashed" being an adjective rather than past participle. This would still be awkward wording, but it would eliminate the issue of preserving passive voice parallelism.


The simple answer (I trust it's simple) is that plane crashed (an event), and that the passengers perished (an event - death). If the passeners "were perished" (from the obscure Collins usage aboue), it would imply a process (ongoing), not an event (even though it would be in the past tense.)

For example, if the quote was "the passengers were perishing", it would have implied a process, that they were dying (not necessarily at the same time).

But since "perished" is firmly in the past tense, the sentence means they're already dead.

"The plane crashed and the prisoners perished." is the correct answer. If you said "were perished" (an very unusual usage), it would strongly imply an outside agency, e.g. someone killed the passengers (not the crash itself - that was an event prior to any scenario involving "were perished".


I haven't read all answers and maybe I add nothing new but it is a correct use of language. It means that the passengers felt cold. That's surely the case after they perished!


I think what you may be trying to say is "The plane had crashed and the passengers had perished". That is it occurred in the past from the time of the events you are narrating. E.G. "The search teams climbed the mountain and found the plane had crashed and the passengers had perished".

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