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A transitive verb that expresses an action can be transformed into passive construction. For example, "The boys carried the piano into the house" can be revised into "The piano was carried by the boys into the house". And a transitive verbs that expresses a state cannot be transformed into passive constructions. For example "He has a new car" cannot be revised into "A new car was had by him."

In addition, an "intransitive verb +preposition" that can be followed by an object and express an action can be transformed into passive construction. For example, "Someone broke into my house last week" can be revised into "My house was broken into last week". And an "intransitive verb +preposition" that can be followed by an object and express a state cannot be transformed into passive constructions such as "This book belong to me" cannot be revised into "I was belonged to by the book".

In conclusion, a transitive verb and an "intransitive verb +preposition" that express an action and can be followed by an object can be transformed into passive construction. So it is not accurate to say that transitive verbs have passive constructions while intransitive verbs don't. Am I right?

  • "I walked from my home." ?"My home was walked from." – Damkerng T. Jan 10 '15 at 2:12
  • What is wrong with "A new car was had by him."? The object (of the active voice phrase) becomes the subject, and the verb becomes an aux. form of to be + a past participle. – user3169 Jan 10 '15 at 3:04
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    @user3169 I think most native speakers would find that sentence ungrammatical. It seems equivalent to the stative uses of: *A pretty face was had by Joan. *Five dollars are had by me. By contrast, dynamic: Sandwiches were had by all. A good time was had by all. (Even in dynamic sense, there are no-gos: *A nap was had by me. *A baby was had by the woman.) – user6951 Jan 10 '15 at 5:25
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Break into is a transitive verb. This is what the Merriam-Webster Unabridged says. Other dictionaries seem to differ, but in this answer the verb will be used in a transitive sense.

<code>M-W break into</code>

Specifically, it is a prepositional verb because the verb + preposition make one meaning-unit. (A prepositional verb is not a phrasal verb, even if some dictionaries wrongly list break into with phrasal verbs. (There are tests to distinguish the two types of verbs; I don't want to overlong this answer with them, but I can provide).

Without an object, the sentence is incomplete and thus ungrammatical:

ungrammatical without an object:
*He broke into.

grammatical forms:

active:
He broke into the house

passive:
The house was broken into by him.

Note the sense of action or motion or direction (He broke into the house).

Notice that break into cannot always be used in the passive. It is precisely when the verb does not have a sense of motion/action that this is the case.

He broke into a sweat.

*A sweat was broken into by him.

The audience broke into applause.

*Applause was broken into by the audience.

*A gallop was broken into by the horse

Last, another transitive verb, composed of one word, can substutute for break into: burgle. (Note there are no exact synonyms and let's not get into legal definitions.)

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