>: I just noticed that one of the headlines on the front page of today's >: Chicago Tribune isn't in present tense: "3 bodies recovered in rubble." > >This IS the present tense, in the passive mood. The full sentence would >read "Three bodies are recovered in rubble" (present tense), not "Three >bodies were recovered in rubble" (past tense). The word "recovered" >itself is being used as the past participle of "recover", not as the past >tense. > >To show that this is so, consider a similarly constructed headline: >"Three cars taken in robbery." "Taken" is not the past tense of "take". >The headline wouldn't be written "Three cars took in robbery." That is >because the sentence is in the passive mood, and "taken" is the past >participle form, which is what's used in English to indicate the passive. >"Recover", like most verbs in English, has past tense and past participle >that are identical, obscuring the distinction between the use of these >two forms. Right, it's usually construed as a passive. But notice that that's not the only possible construction: Three bodies recovered in rubble. Three patients recovered in hospital. Three sofas recovered in naugahyde. There's nothing intrinsic to "3 [Noun]s recovered in [Noun]" that marks this as necessarily a passive. There are other possibilities and passive is often not the first one seized upon. The famous example of the "garden-path" phenomenon, The boat floated down the river sank. gets its cheap thrills from the fact that the construction is compatible with a simple past intransitive until the last word, then backtracking commences and we see that it can also refer to a passive causative "the boat [that was] floated", which provides a slot for "sank" as main verb. My point is that "being in the passive" is a property of the interpreter as much as it is of the words interpreted. Traditional grammatical categories aren't infinitely extensible. Especially when discussing phrases where diction choices are subordinate to typography; headlines aren't, after all, intended to be subtle or definitive -- just loud and provocative. --- Followup: >>I recently came across the phrase "the ship sunk yesterday." I got to >>thinking that perhaps it should be "the ship sank yesterday," but >>looking up the correct spelling seems to require knowing the >>difference between past and present perfect. Can anyone tell me what >>this difference is? > > Beyond the verb-tense question, there is some ambiguity about > what is being addressed in the phrase. If you're talking about what > happened *to* the ship, 'sank' is probably the verb of choice. If > you're talking about the ship, and its watery demise is only > incidental, then the implied modifier (the ship [that was]) would > make 'sunk' the more obvious candidate. > and, in a different thread: >The ship sunk yesterday was refloated today. >By 3:00, it had sunk again. Notice that "The ship sunk yesterday" could be a whole sentence in the past tense active voice of the intransitive verb "sink", in which case "sunk" is non-standard, much the same way "shrunk" is a non-standard past form of "shrink". Cf "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids" OR it could be interpreted as a reduced relative clause: "The ship [that was] sunk yesterday" in which case it's not a full sentence, but a noun phrase with a relative modifying clause whose verb would be in the present perfect passive voice of the causative transitive verb "sink", meaning "cause to sink" [takes deep breath]; and here "sunk" is *not* non-standard, since it's the standard past participle of *both* verbs (this isn't always the case, as the two deviant forms of "shine" demonstrate: Inchoative "shine" = 'be bright': shine, shone, shone Causative "shine" = 'make bright': shine, shined, shined). The phrase "The ship sunk yesterday" is simply ambiguous, and telling whether the correct form of the verb is being used requires one to know the intended meaning. Which, luckily, is almost always available from context, so it's possible to understand without an unambiguous grammar, something no compiler can do. So you're entirely correct in your instincts and interpretation, and what you should probably do is try to remember the circumstances you encountered the sentence in and tell whether "the boat" was sinking on its own hook or being sunk by some nefarious cause. If the latter, its morphology is standard (though it's not a complete sentence); if the former, then its morphology is non-standard, though it is a complete sentence. -------------------------------------------- -John Lawler More grammar Linguistics Program University of Michigan "..and, who knows? Maybe the horse will sing."