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I was asked to change voice of these sentences:

  1. He decided to sell the car.

My answer: He decided the car to be sold.

Book answer: He decided that the car should be sold.

  1. My teacher gave me a journal to read.

My answer: I was given a journal by my teacher to read.

Book answer: A journal was given to me to read by my teacher.

Why am I wrong? In same book they change She wants to insult me to She wants me to be insulted - so why am I wrong in 1st sentence?

In 2nd case there are two objects I and A journal, so I believe we can choose either as a subject, so what is wrong there?

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    The teacher gave you a sentence with two clauses and then didn't tell you which clause you should passivize. There are two clauses, since there are two verbs: decide and sell for the first example, give and read for the second. If you don't understand the question, you can't answer it correctly. – John Lawler Dec 8 '14 at 18:07
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The verb DECIDE:

In sentence (1) the lexical verb, the main verb, is : decide. The verb decide usually takes a finite clause. This means that the complement of the verb is in the form of a full sentence:

  • She decided that [ Bob should sell the car ]
  • She decided that [ Bob will sell the car ]
  • She decided that [ Bob is selling the car ]
  • She decided that [ Bob had sold the car ]

Notice that all of the complements in brackets [ ... ] look like complete sentences. This means they are FINITE clauses. They all have a modal verb or another verb with tense. In a normal sentence with decide we need a finite clause like this.

There is another type of complement that we can use with decide, a non-finite complement. We can use a complement with an infinitive. Here are some examples:

  • The doctors decided [ for him to be treated with laser surgery ]
  • Congress decided [ for him to ratify the treaty ]
  • The Court of Appeal decided [ for him to be returned to his biological family ]

Notice that this type of complement doesn't have a tensed verb. The bit in brackets cannot be a sentence on its own. It doesn't matter if we keep for or not:

  • *For him to be treated with laser surgery. (ungrammatical)
  • *Him to be treated with laser surgery. (ungrammatical)

Usually this type of sentence is very rare. We do not use this construction very much. We prefer the complement of decide to be a finite clause with a tensed verb. Sentences like the first examples are much more common.

However, there is one exception to this. If the subject of decide is the same as the subject of the complement (the bit in brackets), then we prefer to use the infinitive construction. BUT We do not usually say the sentence like this:

  • Bob decided [ for Bob to sell the car ].

With infinitive complements like this, we do not repeat the subject for the infinitive. We do not use for either. We just say:

  • Bob decided [ ______ to sell the car ].

In fact, this is the most common type of sentence that we make with the verb decide, but only if the subject of decide is being used as the subject of the infinitive. If we don't use the same subject, we prefer to use a finite clause.

If we do use the subject twice in the other type of sentence with a finite clause, that is fine as well:

  • Bob decided that [ he should sell the car ].

Notice however, that we must say what the subject of the finite clause is. If we leave it out it is ungrammatical:

    • Bob decided that [ should sell the car ]. (ungrammatical)

The Original Poster's Questions

  1. He decided to sell the car.

Here the sentence uses an infinitive complement. This is because it means:

  • He decided [ for himself to sell the car].

Because we understand that the subject of decide is the subject of to sell we can use the infinitive construction. But if we make the complement passive we get this:

  • He decided [ for the car to be sold by himself ].

Now the subject of decide is 'he' but the subject of to sell is 'the car'. Because the subjects are different we must say who the subject is. But we don't like the very unusual infinitive complement, unless we can leave the subject out. It is much more normal to use a finite complement:

  • He decided that [the car should be sold].
  1. My teacher gave me a journal to read.

The Original Poster is correct here. They can use either the direct object a journal or the indirect object me as the subject of a passivised sentence:

  • I was given a journal to read.
  • A journal was given (to) me to read.

Hope this is helpful!

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  1. Each verb has its own pattern of complements which it 'licenses'; want and decide allow different kinds of complement. The primary sort of complement for decide is a that clause:

    He decided that he would sell his car.
    He decided that the company should sell the car.
    He decided that the car should be sold.

    The infinitival (to VERB) style of complement is employed only when the subject is the same as the subject of decide:

    He decided to sell the car = He decided that he would sell the car.

  2. You are right, and the book should have provided two answers, both the one it does provide and yours.

  • Unless there's an albeit rare for infinitival complement ... :) – Araucaria Dec 9 '14 at 1:45
  • decided for X to VERB? I'll be damned it does show up on Google - and Google Books, too: about half a dozen times each for X = him, them, us. In GB, oddly, the use is most common in naval contexts in the first decade of the 20th century. – StoneyB Dec 9 '14 at 3:02
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You're looking at the wrong things about the sentences, and you're drawing the wrong conclusions.
This has nothing much to do with ditransitive verbs, except that they make everything more complex.

  • He decided to sell the car.
  • She wants to insult me
  • My teacher gave me a journal to read.

In each sentence above, there are two verbs (one is an infinitive and the other is the main verb).
That means there are two Clauses in each sentence. Each of these clauses is transitive,
and therefore the Passive rule can be applied to it. But it won't always produce good sentences.

  • To sell the car was decided by him is the passive of the matrix verb decide.
  • He decided the car to be sold is the passive of sell; it doesn't mean the same thing.
  • To insult me is wanted by her is the passive of the matrix verb want.
  • She wants (for) me to be insulted (by her) is the passive of insult; it doesn't mean the same thing.

and for the only ditransitive verb (give), there are two possible passives

  • A journal (for me) to read was given to me by my teacher is one passive of the matrix verb give
  • I was given a journal (for me) to read by my teacher is another passive of give
  • My teacher gave me a journal to be read (by me) is the passive of read. It means the same thing.

Obviously, despite what your teacher or textbook may say, there is no such thing as "passive voice".
There is a passive construction, which can be applied to transitive clauses, with varying effects.
GIGO

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    Although I agree (some vetted grammar sources wouldn't) that to sell the car is the DO of decided, I'm not convinced that "not good sentences" = grammatical results! :) – Araucaria Dec 8 '14 at 20:37
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    It's not clear what the questioner is asking for, nor what the teacher is asking for, nor what dialect or version of "English" is being taught and/or learned. Passive is as automatic as blinking, but its uses are highly constrained by the pragmatics and semantics of the verb. – John Lawler Dec 8 '14 at 21:57
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Actually, neither one of these answers was technically correct if we are changing the subject to object and object to subject, using passive voice. In passive voice, the subject is acted upon. For example, "I fed the dog" is active. "The dog was fed" is passive. If the book directions were to change to passive voice, the book answer for "He decided to sell the car" was incorrect.

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    It would be helpful to include a correct answer to illustrate the difference. – ColleenV Dec 8 '14 at 15:11
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    "He decided that the car should be sold" adds passive voice to a subordinate phrase in a sentence that is still in active voice. It does not change the sentence to passive voice. As for the "journal" sentence, to change a sentence to passive voice, the object that is acted upon should be made the subject. In this case, the object being acted upon is "to sell." Thus "to sell" should be the new subject. It's a difficult sentence to reconstruct in passive voice. – bail Dec 8 '14 at 19:21
  • I think you are being overly strict in reading the OP's instructions. The OP indicated they were asked to change the sentence from active to passive. These are sentences with multiple verbs, initially it is fully active. The book answers both contain passives; in the first sentence it is just not in the primary verb because as you noted it is difficult to passive an infinitive as the subject for "decide". (However, the cleft sentence version of "it was decided [by him] to sell the car" would passivize decide, but it is not very likely to be said this way). – eques Dec 8 '14 at 21:04

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