I have to turn this imperative sentence into passive form-

Be punctual or they will eliminate you.

I think the right one is-

You are suggested to be punctual or you will be eliminated by them.

But the 1st portion of my answer doesn't satisfy the basic rules of voice-change of imperative sentences that I have read so far in my books. Please show me any better way.

  • 1
    Your example sentence is a coordination of an imperative clause and a declarative clause, where the sentence has a conditional interpretation. Condition: 'X or Y' implicates "if not X, then Y". (Related info in the 2002 CGEL, pages 1303-4.)
    – F.E.
    Mar 9, 2015 at 7:08
  • As others point out, there is no good way to make the first part passive. But in any case don't use "you are suggested to be punctual". If anything, try " It is suggested that you be punctual..." because being punctual is being suggested, not the person. Mar 9, 2015 at 8:59

5 Answers 5


I'm a native American English speaker, and I find it difficult to understand how "be punctual" can be made passive. Perhaps your book is only asking you to change the part after "or". You got that exactly right:

Be punctual or you will be eliminated by them.

What I am about to say might not be relevant to your assignment, but often, in a "do this or that will happen" sentence, we put the second part in the form of an imperative, without any indication of future tense, but it still refers to the future consequence of failing to do the first part. For example:

Be punctual or be eliminated.

Here are some very well-known examples:

Be there or be square. ["Square" here is old slang for "uncool", dull, undesirable, out of step with social life. Wiktionary.]

Sweat now or bleed later. [This means, if you don't work hard to build skills now, you'll suffer in some later situation where those skills will be needed, such as warfare.]

  • (+1) Precisely my point. It just doesn't seem standard English grammar to "passify" an imperative with a "be". The OP's assignment might be only in accordance with what "grammar" it provided.
    – M.A.R.
    Mar 8, 2015 at 20:11
  • 1
    @MARamezani Good point that the imperative "be" can't be "passified". (Nice neologism, by the way!) I'll add an example with a transitive imperative verb right now.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Mar 8, 2015 at 20:15
  • @MARamezani Or maybe I'll wait to add that. Every example I've come up with so far is terrible!
    – Ben Kovitz
    Mar 8, 2015 at 20:21
  • Some imperatives 'sort of' passify: 'sit down' > 'be seated', but overall, I would have to say (from native speaker intuition and the sources I've quickly checked) that imperatives don't form passives.
    – Sydney
    Mar 8, 2015 at 21:40
  • @Sydney Yeah, that sort of conversion to passive just doesn't seem to work. Another thought is "carry"/"be carried". But it would be a mighty strange circumstance where you would order someone to be carried.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Mar 8, 2015 at 21:51

This website states that imperatives can me made passive with 'Let _ be V-pp' (example 'Bring it home' > 'Let it be brought home'), but that is questionable at the best of times (there is a semantic difference - 'Bring it home' means 'You bring it home'; 'Let it be brought home' means 'Allow (or don't prevent) anyone else bringing it home' and impossible in OP's sentence 'Be punctual' > *'Let you be punctual'.


Punctual you must be or you will be eliminated by them.

  • 2
    This is fine grammar, and it is a passive construction. But it is not necessary to make the first part passive, and it sounds awkward and unwieldy for most purposes. Mar 9, 2015 at 6:36

Be punctual or you'll be eliminated.

It is better to leave out by them in this sentence, at least in most likely contexts.

We often use the passive when we don't know who the agent is, or when it is unimportant, unnecessary, or undesireable to identify the agent.

Agent means the doer of the action.

In this sentence, it is very unlikely that the reader or hearer needs to know who would do the act of eliminating.


According to Wikipedia

The noun or noun phrase that would be the object of an active sentence appears as the subject of a sentence with passive voice.

So to turn your phrase into passive voice, try:

They will eliminate you if you are not punctual.

  • 4
    That is not a passive construction. Mar 9, 2015 at 6:37

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