Active: Let him play his game.

Passive (book answer): Let his game be played by him.

I know how the book has changed the given sentence into the passive.

Following the same rule I changed Let us help him into Let he is helped by us. But according to the book my answer is wrong. The book's answer is He should be helped. Can someone explain why I am wrong?

  • First, in the passive mode you should use "be" instead of "is". Second, your book's answer is more idiomatic than the exact grammatical conversion of that sentence from the active mode to the passive mode. I mean it is more rational to say "he should be helped" than "let he be helped by us". Especially that you can say: "He should be helped. Let us help him." – mok Dec 9 '14 at 11:18
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    @mok Ok apart from it should be let him be helped by us. Notice that BE is not tensed, but an infinitive. With non-tensed verbs we usually use him, or sometimes his, as subject. – Araucaria Dec 9 '14 at 11:22
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    @Araucaria Exactly, it was a typo. – mok Dec 9 '14 at 11:24
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    Get a new book!!! – Araucaria Dec 9 '14 at 13:26

The book is giving you some screwy examples. "Let his game be played by him" is correct but weird. You would only say something like that to make very unusual emphasis.

Here are a couple things to know.

How to make the subordinate clause

To make the object of let into the subject of its own clause, you need to put it into the objective case and put the verb into the infinitive. That's why you say:

Let him play his game.

rather than:

Let he plays his game.

Similarly, you would say Let him be helped by us, not Let he is helped by us. However, this sentence is equally as weird as Let his game be played by him.

Two (or three) senses of let

I think what the book is trying to do is teach two different senses of let at the same time that it's teaching you a tricky form of passive voice. Two of the main senses of the word let mean: (1) allow/permit the clause to happen; (2) suggesting or agreeing that "we" do the clause.

A classic example of the allow/permit sense: Let me go! is what a person who is being held against their will says to their captor.

A classic example of suggesting that "we" do something: Let's go! or Let's get started! is what you say when you want to start doing what you and your listener were just talking about doing together. This sense nearly always has us contracted to 's. (It has to be us rather than we because the subject of the clause has to be in the objective case, as above.)

Those are the most common and simplest examples to remember in order to learn the sound of the language. However, those examples can't be converted to a passive form.

Here's a more-realistic example in both active and passive form:

Let Dr. Kildare see the patient.

Let the patient be seen by Dr. Kildare.

Possibly your book has confused the suggesting/agreeing sense with a third sense of let, expressing a wish. A classic example of using let to express a wish is: Let peace prevail on Earth. Here's a realistic version of what I think your book is trying to demonstrate:

Let us beat our swords into plowshares.

Let all our swords be beaten into plowshares.

or, passively again, without using let:

May all swords be beaten into plowshares.

I can see why your book might have confused these senses. They really are a big, muddy mess. They are all variations on the basic sense of allow/permit, stretched to mean different things by repeated usage. The wishing sense can often be understood as the allowing sense and the suggesting sense simultaneously, where the request/suggestion is addressed to a deity, like Oh, God, please let there be peace on Earth.

  • for example Let me play here change into I may be allowed to play here. In this sentence there is sense of permission. Let us lie for a while change into It is suggested that we should lie for a while. Am i right? – starun008 Dec 9 '14 at 12:33
  • Yes, that makes sense! As a native speaker, I think of switching from active to passive as nothing more than replacing the verb with its past participle and sticking be or get in front of it, as in "to love and be loved in return". Your book is taking a looser approach, expressing the same meaning in a passive way, using a different verb if necessary. – Ben Kovitz Dec 10 '14 at 3:26

The Active Voice of the book's answer 'He should be helped.' is different.

Let's see

1. Active Voice - We should help him.
2. Passive Voice - He should be helped. (by us)

Grammatically in imperative sentences Passive Voice is possible, but it's use is very seldom.

For example

Active V - May God bless you !!
Passive V - May You be blessed by God.

Active V - Let us help him.
Passive V - Let him be helped by us.

Active V - Let him drive the car.
Passive V - Let the car be driven by him.

Though passive voices of above sentences are possible, there will be very rare situations n which we will have to use them.

Your answer is almost correct except replace 'be' in place of 'is'.

No matter what the subject is in an imperative sentence, the 'to be' form of the subject should be 'be' in the passive voice.


Let is one of those verbs with several shades of meaning; it can mean permit/allow, but in this context it is a suggestion - let us do.. meaning I suggest we do... When you change the rest of the sentence to 'he is helped.. you have added another verb in (is), so you now have 2 verbs (3 if you count helped!) in one sentence - this doesn't work at all. 'He is helped by us' works as a description, 'he should be helped' loses the context of who should be helping - to be honest, I'd like 'he is helped by us' better - but the initial 'let' is definitely wrong. I'm not too keen on the 'Let his game be played by him' sentence either - that isn't really a construct I can see myself using, even though it's technically OK.

protected by Community Sep 16 '17 at 3:00

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