1 I gave him a wrench. 1a A wrench was given to him. - CORRECT

Give can be used in either the active or passive voices.

2 We come across different people. - OK 2a Different people can be come across by us. - WRONG

Come across cannot be used in the passive voice.

What is it called when a verb can be used in the passive and active voices or when it can't?

  • Officers and men among the Russian troops that have been come across by Sir West Ridgeway's party make no concealment that their faces are set towards India... You might not like it, but there's nothing inherently wrong with "passive" to come across. Dec 23, 2023 at 11:32
  • 1
    ...Different wrenches can be given to him by us sounds pretty awful to me anyway (we say We can give him different wrenches). Dec 23, 2023 at 11:35
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    Google Bard says that among others, Intransitive verbs: These verbs only take a subject and lack a direct object, therefore no entity can be passivized. Examples include "run," "jump," "sleep," "cry," "fall." But there are a number of reasons why any given verb either can't be "passivised" at all, or doesn't normally work well. There won't be a collective name for all of them, I'm sure. Dec 23, 2023 at 12:06
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    ...the fact that Bard seems not to realise a race can be run, or a hurdle jumped, just reminds us AI has some way to go yet. I'm not so sure about A river was cried by me over you, though! (And I defy anyone to come up with a syntactically valid passive to fall :) Dec 23, 2023 at 12:11
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    @user1425 You are quite right to say that "come across" doesn't permit a prepositional passive. "We came across some old letters" is fine, but *"Some old letters were come across" is not.
    – BillJ
    Dec 23, 2023 at 12:44

1 Answer 1


I don't think that there is any official name but non-passive verbs should be understood.

From Practical English Usage:

Some transitive verbs, too, are seldom used in the passive. Most of these are 'stative verbs’ (verbs which refer to states, not actions).

From Oxford Learner's Dictionary:

come across somebody/something

[no passive] to meet or find somebody/something by chance

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