Today my friend asked me a question about the passive voice. I think something different than what her teacher had told. The original sentence is

He had borrowed this book from the library.

My answer:

This book from the library had been borrowed.

Her teacher has another answer:

This book had been borrowed from the library

Which of the two answers is true?

  • "This book from the library had been borrowed" is possible, but it's very old-fashioned and poetic-sounding. More normal speech order, at least to an American English speaker is Subject ("this book") Verb ("had been borrowed") followed by the prepositional phrase describing how it was borrowed ("from the library.")
    – stangdon
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 17:25

1 Answer 1


He had borrowed this book from the library.

The active version of the sentence has two possible meanings. There is nothing here to say which is intended, but 1. is on its face more likely.

  1. The source from which he borrowed the book was the library OR
  2. The library is the original source of the book, but he borrowed it from somebody else.

Your passive sentence reflects 2; the teacher's passive sentence reflects 1.

  • Is it different between these two sentence? "Anyone in the house isn't seen" and " Anyone isn't seen in the house".
    – duyenngoc
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 15:18
  • @duyenngoc The first means that every person in the house is invisible. The second is not idiomatic--we would say "No one is seen in the house", meaning that upon examination it appears that nobody is in the house. Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 18:50

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