middle voice

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English[edit]

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Noun[edit]

middle voice (uncountable)

  1. (grammar) The form in which the subject of a verb performs some action upon itself.
    • an example that is handled by a reflexive pronoun:
      active voice: Fred shaved John.
      passive voice: John was shaved by Fred.
      middle voice: Fred shaved (himself).
    • an example that is not resolved by a reflexive pronoun:
      active voice: I soaked my clothes in detergent overnight to remove stains.
      passive voice: My clothes were soaked in detergent overnight (by me).
      middle voice: My clothes soaked in detergent overnight.

Usage notes[edit]

English once did but no longer has a middle (sometimes called the mediopassive) voice, but the examples demonstrate how it works. In highly inflected languages like ancient Greek and Icelandic, the middle voice has its own distinct verb form. For English, it is just a grammatical oddity, usually dealt with by the use of a reflexive pronoun.

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