Glossary: by-phrase

Explanation

A preposition phrase in a passive clause which starts with by and typically identifies the agent, as in The fire was started by some campers. The by-phrase is absent in agentless passive clauses.

Active and passive

Consider the two sentences below. What is the difference between them?

  1. The council workers cleared the path.
  2. The path was cleared by the council workers.

The same event is taking place in both sentences, but the sentences have been expressed in different ways.

In the first example the focus is on what the council workers did (they cleared the path), whereas in the second example, the focus is on what happened to the path (it was cleared by the council workers).

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