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Can to knit be used in this passive structure? The meaning I want this sentence to have is Someone knit a sweater to for me.

  1. I was knit a sweater.

I know that to give can be used in this passive structure, for example:

▪︎ I was given a toy.

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    Knit is one of the words that can remain the same in past, presence and future (called 'uninflected tense'). Knit is an irregular verb, being that the past participle word 'knitted' is also correct. Use of the past tense verbs 'had' or 'have' is appropriate when the word sequence is 'had knit' or 'have knit' (which is past tense). Feb 1, 2023 at 14:30
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    Heh heh. That grammar of knitting is tangled.
    – Boba Fit
    Feb 1, 2023 at 16:07
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    I would more likely say this in the active voice: “Someone knitted a sweater for me” or “Someone knitted me a sweater.” Passive is grammatically correct too, though.
    – Davislor
    Feb 1, 2023 at 22:24
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    @Davislor but you would not say "Someone hitted me."
    – RonJohn
    Feb 2, 2023 at 16:23
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    @RonJohn Correct: hit is an irregular verb, and there is no such word as *hitted. The third-person simple past tense of `*knit* can be either knitted or knit. , so OP’s use of knit was correct too. I am more likely to say knit as a past participle, personally, but that also can be either was knitted or was knit.
    – Davislor
    Feb 2, 2023 at 16:46

4 Answers 4

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Collins dictionary unequivocally asserts that the Past Participle is always knitted, but they have a "usage note" saying that knit as a Past Tense is acceptable in the context of bones that knit together (in the past).

I think Collins is simply wrong, and here's a usage chart to support my position...

enter image description here

There's nothing inherently wrong with using the passive as per OP's example, which (Collins notwithstanding) is perfectly valid using knit or knitted. There's no doubt the verb is "defective", but some speakers will model the Past Tense after He hit me yesterday where others match it to He fitted the catflap yesterday.


Apologies for using an image, but here's usingenglish.com...

enter image description here


...and here's a final word from grammar.com...

...officially and especially in UK English1, “knitted” is just as correct as “knit” in past tense, both in past simple and in past participle. Formed by adding “-ed” after doubling the last consonant, “knitted” is equally frequently used in the English vocabulary as “knit” in past tense, and there is no restriction or context that requires the use of one or the other version.


1 I have no evidence (or "gut feel") that there's any significant BrE/AmE usage split here, so I don't necessarily endorse that assertion.

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    No, the Collins does not unequivocally assert what you claim. The Collins says this: LANGUAGE NOTE: The past tense can be either knit or knitted for meaning [sense 4].
    – Lambie
    Feb 1, 2023 at 15:05
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    That is exactly what I'm saying. But (1) - I don't accept that knit can only be a valid Past Tense with that specific meaning, and (2) - I'm happy to use knit as a Past Participle as well (which Collins doesn't endorse at all). Feb 1, 2023 at 15:11
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    @FumbleFingers, sorry for raising this storm, and well done for persevering with the issue. For my part, I had just chosen a dictionary so I was basing my answer on more than my own opinion. Next time, I'll hesitate before choosing Collins! Having read your answer, I agree with you fully :) Feb 1, 2023 at 19:03
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    The usage chart would be more interesting, in my opinion, if you had included "sweater was knitted" and "sweater was knit". I suspect that the difference in knit/knitted frequency between "she knit/knitted me ..." and "bones knit/knitted" might have more to do with what is being knitted (clothing vs bones) than whether you're looking at a participle or a simple past. I also do believe that there's a US/UK distinction afoot here. I am not American, and I would always use "knitted". To me, "she knit" as a past tense feels just as foreign as "she spit" as the past tense. Feb 2, 2023 at 4:56
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    @FumbleFingers In OE, it was a weak verb (class I, subclass III), which means it had the regular, weak -de ending in the past tense, but because the stem ends in /t/, that was assimilated into -te, so the past and present forms were largely identical: 1sg cnytte. The participle ended regularly in -ed, though: (ġe)cnytted. Already in ME, these start getting mixed up, with both past knytted from the participle and participle (y)knyt from the past appearing, and this has continued to the present. Feb 2, 2023 at 16:47
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Your sentence is perfect, and means exactly what you intended it to mean.

It sounds even more acceptable to me than "I was knitted a sweater" (which other posters are suggesting you to use based on what Collins dictionary says about knit's conjugations).

When I read the title before opening your question, I understood that it means Someone knit a sweater for me. I thought an English learner had read this sentence somewhere and was asking about how to understand this passive construction, which is extra confusing as far as passives go because the verb has irregular conjugations and variable transitivity. But actually you created it - awesome!

Most people seem to find knitted more acceptable though, rather than knit, so you may want to change it. I was surprised by the Collins dictionary entry and the top answer and comments here, I didn't know I'm apparently in a small minority for never inflecting knit.

enter image description here

enter image description here

Apparently the past tense form of this verb is sexist.

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No, you shouldn’t say this. Some native speakers might say it, but most would find it awkward, and it’s a bit nonstandard.

There are two independent issues here:

  • should the past participle be knit or knitted?
  • can you use the structure I was given a sweater (the “ditransitive passive”) with knit[ted]?

Other answers treat the first question well: the traditional standard past participle in most contexts is knitted, but knit is also common, so I wouldn’t call it wrong.

However the ditransitive passive form doesn’t work with knit. Your example I was given a sweater is fine; but this form works better with some verbs than others. Verbs like this that can take two direct objects (as in Sue gave me a sweater, Sue knit me a sweater) are called ditransitive, and they generally fall into two classes according whether the first object can be rephrased with to (like Sue gave a sweater to me) or with for (like Sue knitted a sweater for me). The passive form Tom was VERBed a NOUN is generally standard with to-type ditransitives, but not with for-type ditransitives. So you can say I was given a cake, I was sent flowers, I was offered a loan, but NOT I was baked a cake, I was ordered flowers, I was arranged a loan. And as Peter Kirkpatrick’s answer notes, ditransitive knit is a for-type, not a to-type.

Passives of for-type ditransitives aren’t completely wrong — they do occur in native speaker usage — but they are rare, and usually feel awkward. Going to a very authoritative reference, Huddleston and Pullum (Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, 2002, Ch.4 §4.3 Ditransitive clauses) write “many speakers find [examples like I was ordered a book] marginally possible”.

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    The perfect answer -- it even explains why I (a native speaker) was uncertain about the validity of the OP's sentence.
    – TonyK
    Feb 2, 2023 at 14:20
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    Huh, never thought about the difference between to- and for-type transitives here. Even with the for type, though, it seems to me there are differences – for example, I find “I was knit(ted) a sweater” and “I was baked a cake” completely unremarkable, but “I was ordered flowers” is a bit odd, and “I was arranged a loan” is completely impossible to me, and I had to do a fair bit of mental gymnastics to even get the meaning. Feb 2, 2023 at 15:45
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    @JanusBahsJacquet: Agreed about the variation between verbs, though my intuition for the specific examples is different from yours — for me “knitted” and “baked” are no better than “ordered”. The cited section in CGEL also notes this, saying “Ditransitive verbs vary considerable in how readily they occur in passive clauses”, and discusses some more subtleties about what can affect the acceptability of different cases — but they present the to-/for- division as the main factor, and that fits my intuition + experience well.
    – PLL
    Feb 2, 2023 at 15:55
  • What about "I was made a cake." That seems fine to me. Feb 3, 2023 at 0:53
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    @chasly-supportsMonica I think it really depends on speaker. I find "arranged a loan" impossible, "baked a cake" and "knit a sweater not great but not problematic and "ordered flowers" unexceptionable. And "made a cake" is worse for me than "baked a cake". Looking at usage data would probably be necessary and chances are there would be regional variations. The knit/vs. knitted graphs are quite interesting in another answer here.
    – DRF
    Feb 3, 2023 at 12:28
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Yes, the verb to knit can be used in a passive sense. However we need to tidy up your grammar, which is not correct.

Collins Dictionary gives these words as the tenses of knit:

  • knits (present tense)
  • knitting (present participle)
  • knitted (past tense and past participle)

Collins does list one example where the past tense can be 'knit' or knitted', but this is the technical sense of broken bones knitting back together.

So for your basic example (assuming we are talking about knitting done in the past) we would say, "Someone knitted a sweater."

Also, we would say "knitted a sweater for me" (not to me). If you're not sure why, search for articles on indirect objects in a sentence.

So the full sentence becomes "Someone knitted a sweater for me." Then we can change the form of the sentence from active to passive like this:

  • "The sweater was knitted (by X) for me."

You can also say:

  • "I was knitted a sweater."

...which has the same grammar as "I was given a sweater." It means that I was the one for whom the sweater was knitted.

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    I don't like to disagree with Collins, but I'm fine with knit as both past tense (Nan knit me a sweater last year) and past participle (She has knit me a sweater every year). I haven't gone looking, but I'm quite sure I could find plenty of examples to support my position heree. Feb 1, 2023 at 14:43
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    Sweater of ages, knit for me, let me warm myself in thee! Feb 1, 2023 at 14:44
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    @FumbleFingers As a Southern English RP speaker, born among Cockneys, I would find 'a sweater knit for me' a little stilted and old-fashioned, although I am OK with e.g. 'a close-knit (or tight-knit) family'. Feb 1, 2023 at 14:56
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    Collins: LANGUAGE NOTE: The past tense can be either knit or knitted for meaning [sense 4]. This answer does not deserve a dv.
    – Lambie
    Feb 1, 2023 at 15:06
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    @FumbleFingers - I meant I read 'a mother of nine' like 'a boy of nine'. Feb 1, 2023 at 16:18

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