Sentence: I must go and look for my brothers.

I need to change this sentence to passive voice. What would be the correct passive voice form of this sentence?

I think the verb here is "look".

My attempt: To look for my brothers is why I have to go.

Context: This sentence has been assigned as part of homework assignment for a 4th grade kid. The assignment is to convert sentences from active form to passive form. It may be possible that the teacher made an error, and this sentence cannot be changed to passive form. However, I am not sure.


4 Answers 4


This is a silly question. It asks one to do something that can't be done.
The sentence

  • I must go and look for my brothers.

is Intransitive, but Passive can only apply to a Transitive clause.

The Passive rule promotes the direct object to subject, demotes the old subject to an optional object of by, and adds the auxiliary verb be before the past participle form of the main transitive verb. Like this:

  • Marie shot my cousin. == Passive => My cousin was shot (by Marie).

But if the clause isn't transitive, there isn't a direct object to promote, and other noun phrases don't usually work.

  • Mary slept all day. but not *All day was slept (by Mary).

Sometimes prepositional objects can be passivized, if the preposition is one that makes a transitive verb out of an intransitive one, like look (at) or listen (to)

  • We must look at/listen to that again. == Passive => That must be looked at/listened to again.

But that's rarely the case, so most prepositions after verbs don't mark direct objects. And without a direct object, Passive is impossible.

The real solution is to get a new textbook that actually describes English, instead of something like English.

  • 2
    Perhaps the OP should print this answer out and have the 4th grade kid turn it in to his/her teacher :D I wonder what the teacher would say.
    – Catija
    Sep 22, 2015 at 21:03

Going and looking for my brothers must be done by me. Right?

  • 3
    It's a reasonable try. However I think there is a problem with the question. There may not be a satisfactory answer. Sep 22, 2015 at 15:50

My brothers must be looked for (by me).


My brothers must be gone and looked for (by me).

The latter is more exact, but not particularly idiomatic.

I don't think it's a very good question. Hopefully chasley will have a good explanation why not.

  • 2
    We don't actually know exactly what OP's original is supposed to mean - there could be two things I need to do (I must "go" and I must "look"), or just one (go [in order] to look). I agree syntactically your second version is "more exact" even though it's not very idiomatic. But I suspect that to be even more exact it might require the even less idiomatic My brothers must be gone to be looked for by me. Sep 22, 2015 at 17:08
  • @FumbleFingers: there is no possible interpretation where "my brothers" is an object of the verb "go," so the sentence you mentioned is not just less idiomatic, but actually grammatically impossible, isn't it? (Actually, now that I think about it, does the same issue apply to the sentence ssav mentioned?)
    – sumelic
    Sep 22, 2015 at 18:24
  • 3
    @sumelic: Perhaps because I'm not a "learner", I don't really understand this preoccupation with trying to apply the "switch from active to passive" principle to unusual cases like this (they probably only taught us simple stuff like I saw him => He was seen by me). It seems pretty obvious to me that attempting to convert He is French to "passive" is effectively meaningless, but I can't precisely articulate why, and I don't know if OP's example falls into the same class. It's an odd question, which I think should have been left on ELU Sep 22, 2015 at 19:54
  • 3
    The second one is ungrammatical. Sep 22, 2015 at 20:35

I must go and my brothers must be looked for. Because 'go' is an intransitive verb and it can't be used as passive form. On the other hand, 'look for' is a transitive verb which can be changed into passive.

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