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I'm an English learner and came across an exercise question today:

Sentence: Many of the world's great novels are reported ___ (make) into movies last year.

Choices:

  • made
  • to be made
  • to have been made
  • have been made.

Which is grammatically correct and which sounds more natural? If more than one answer is correct, is there any difference about the meaning of them?

PS: this sentence seems to be weird for me, my intuition tells me

"Many of the world's great novels WERE reported to have been made into movies last year."

is more natural. Is my intuition right?

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    Your sentence means the reports were made in the past. The original means the reports are still current.
    – Peter
    Commented Mar 20 at 11:14
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    This sentence doesn't make sense to me. It seems unlikely that during the last year there were tens of thousands of novel-based movies made. What might be true is that, as of last year, many of the world's great novels have already been made into movies (over the past 120 years) - ie there are few left that haven't. But that's not what any of the options say. Unless 'last year' refers to 'reporting' and not 'making', but that would require a different sentence. Commented Mar 20 at 13:52
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    @user1908704 It's grammatically correct but factually wrong.
    – Lambie
    Commented Mar 20 at 13:56
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    Also, although it's just an invented sentence to make a grammatical example, it's a strange sentence. "___ is reported to have happened" is a way of distancing our statement; we're not saying for sure that it happened, just that someone else said it did. There's not really any great mystery or uncertainty over which movies were made. What counts as "the world's great novels" is more uncertain, but the sentence casts doubt in the wrong end of the sentence. Something like "Many novels reputed to be among the world's greatest were made into movies last year" might be more plausible. Commented Mar 20 at 14:26
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    Just as @AndyBonner perfectly explains, it's one of those absolutely infuriating "badly written exam questions".
    – Fattie
    Commented Mar 20 at 19:11

3 Answers 3

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The correct answer is C, "to have been made".

You need an infinitive because the sentence already has a verb, "reported". That rules out A and D, which are not infinitives.

"to be made" is future but the sentence says "last year", so that doesn't make sense. You could say "... reported to be made into movies next year." You'd probably want to add "planned" or "expected", as you are unlikely to know for certain.

It is "are reported" rather than "were reported" because the reporting is happening in the present. Yes, the movies were made last year, in the past, thus past tense, but the reporting is in the present, thus present tense.

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  • Thank you for your detailed explanation. I'm still a little confused about one point: what does "reporting happening in the present" mean? Does it mean that the report is finished and the conclusion drawn in it is still valid, or I am listening a report right now? Commented Mar 21 at 3:37
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    @NekomiyaKasane It's a vague time period that includes the present; the speaker is relating something they read or heard recently. Past tense "were reported" suggests that the information has changed and would not be reported similarly now.
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 21 at 14:34
  • Shouldn't your second sentence rather be something like "You need an infinitive because the sentence already has a finite verb, 'reported'"? Infinitives are still verbs, and clauses can easily have two or more verbs (auxiliaries are verbs as well). But only one verb can be finite (unless you allow for verb coordination).
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Mar 21 at 15:59
  • 'the sentence already has a verb, "reported". That rules out A and D, which are not infinitives.' Not in general. For example, "His car was reported stolen" is grammatically OK. The fact that "was reported" is the main verb doesn't rule out the use of a participle (such as "stolen" or "missing") after it. In the OP's example, "reported made" does sound very awkward, but not because the sentence already has a verb.
    – LarsH
    Commented Mar 21 at 20:52
  • @LarsH Yes, I'm perhaps oversimplifying. Feel free to give a more complete explanation.
    – Jay
    Commented Mar 22 at 8:10
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You are correct in that were reported is more natural. For the nonpast form "are reported" to make sense, the sentence has to be framed in the context of some discussion of some report, which is in the present tense:

In the analysis available at www.xyz.com, many of the world's greatest novels are reported ...

being reported is also possible for an ongoing story:

In current news, many of the world's greatest novels are being reported ...

In the news, it is being reported that many of the world's greatest novels ...

Now "reported to have been made" is unquestionably right, but "reported made" is also valid grammar under the right circumstances.

If something is "reported made", that strongly implies first hand information, like a status update from the actual party that is responsible for completion, which occurs upon completion.

E.g.

According to e-mails between the developer and contractors, the application for the building permit was reported made in February.

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    Hmm... "reported made" is grammatically valid, just as "the child was reported missing" is, but idiomatically it might be pushing it. "Reported missing" only works because it's a scenario that happens so often: missing children get reports. Commented Mar 20 at 20:49
  • @AndyBonner It's pretty general; e.g "Something baked in oil may be considered fried".
    – Kaz
    Commented Mar 20 at 23:43
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    well, that’s a different word. I’m just not sure that “reported“ works that way, aside from a few common patterns that are often “reported“ like “reported dead.“ Commented Mar 21 at 0:01
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    @AndyBonner I think it works only if the word is used as an adjective, which is fine for "missing", "fried" or "dead", but not "made". Commented Mar 21 at 10:45
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made

Possible, but awkward. In this case, "made" functions as an adjective, not as a past participle. Similarly, one could say "many people were reported dead", but not "... reported died". The adjective form of "made" is not used very often and tends to sound strange, outside of some specific idioms (e.g. made man meaning a man who has built up some wealth and can live comfortably; this is old-fashioned).

When a past participle becomes an adjective like this, it has a passive sense: a sunk cost is a cost which has been sunk (money was metaphorically sunk into a project), not a cost which caused something else to sink. This prevents many verbs from having this adjectival use for their past participle. (Of course, it's common to use present participles adjectivally; one can say "a talking person", but not "a talked person" - among other objections, to talk is intransitive.)

to be made

Not possible, because the action of making the novels into movies happened in the past, but this describes a present action. Logically, the reporting can't happen until after the movies are made, so "... are reported to be made into movies this year" also doesn't work.

However this could be used as the habitual present: "Many of the world's great novels are reported to be made into movies every year." It's ambiguous whether this means that the reports also happen every year, or whether a report is happening only now about the movies (which are made every year).

to have been made

This form is correct, as you've already worked out. "Reported" is the main verb, which is then elaborated upon with a past infinitive.

have been made.

Not possible; this isn't an infinitive, and a conjugated verb like this can't turn into an adjective the way that a participle might.

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    Using past participles to form adjectives is much more frequent than your first part suggests, and they don't necessarily have to have a passive reading: "a relaxed atmosphere", "a pulled muscle", "a flared shirt", or even something like "the Denver-based company" all contain deverbal adjectives with no obvious passive sense. Even "made" is less unusual if you think of predicative uses such as "my cup is green and made of paper". The reason why "made" is awkward here is that it's not in a position that easily licenses adjective phrases, namely after the non-linking lexical verb "report".
    – Schmuddi
    Commented Mar 21 at 16:13
  • @Schmuddi the adjective "made" is uncommon in attributive use; as I noted, "made man" is a specific idiom. That's what I was getting at. And again, e.g. a "pulled muscle" is one which has been pulled (by the person whose body it's a part of), not one which has pulled something (although that could possibly be ultimately responsible for the injury). Commented Mar 21 at 17:26

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