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Grammar Squib - The Complex Passive in Danish

by Signe_Rix_Berthelin

Complex Passives in Danish

Abstract Template
Template NP (aux) Vmatrix Vcomplement* (PP) (ADV)
Template with expletive subject EXPL (aux) Vmatrix Vcomplement* ((NPindefinite)or(PP)) (ADV)

Characteristics of the respective verbs

Characteristics of the respective verbs
Matrix verb Verbal complement
Voice passive Passive past participle
Changes to the citation form Suffix –t and use the aux. blive ‘become’ (periphrastic)


Suffix –s (synthetic)

Suffix -t
Relation to the subject of the construction (↑SUBJ) = (↑XCOMP SUBJ) SUBJ is not a thematic argument SUBJ is a thematic argument
Relation to the object of the construction if expletive subject (↑OBJ) = (↑XCOMP OBJ) OBJ is not a thematic argument OBJ is a thematic argument
Lexical properties Control verb (subject or object control) nothing

Grammatical functions:





If expletive subject

Argument structure:

Grammatical functions:





Syntactic selection Selecting verbal complement nothing
Tendencies nothing Rarely allows prefixed negation u- ‘un-’
Characteristics of the corresponding active verb form Selects infinitival complements without a prepositional marker.

Does not take experiencer subject

Not an unaccusative verb


Ørsnes, B., 2006. Creating Raising Verbs - An LFG-analysis of the Complex Passive in Danish, CSLI online publications

Falk, Y.N., 2001. Lexical-Functional Grammar: An Introduction to Parallel Constraint-Based Syntax, Stanford, Calif.: CSLI Publications.

Complex Passive constructions

The following sentences are examples of Danish complex passive constructions, gathered by introspection.

Differences between complex passives in Norwegian and Danish

In Norwegian the active participles used in complex passives have the same argument structure as their corresponding nominal modifiers. Løpt as a two-place predicate occurs in complex passive constructions and as a pre-nominal modifier in Norwegian. The intransitive verb løpt does neither occur as pre-nominal modifier, nor in complex passives.

Participles in the Danish complex passives are always past participles, and they do not occur as pre-nominal modifiers. The Danish intransitive løbet can be used in a complex passive construction, but it never occurs as a pre-nominal modifier. Further, I doubt that a Danish two place predicate like løbet is allowed in complex passives, unless the DIR-argument is a predicate itself with its own argument structure.

Norwegian: løpt [AGENT,DIR] løpt [AGENT]

Danish: løbet [AGENT,DIR] løbet [AGENT]

In Norwegian, participles based on unaccusative verbs are allowed in complex passive constructions. This is not the case in Danish.


Hellan, L., 2001. Complex Passive Constructions in Norwegian, Manuscript, NTNU.

Ørsnes, B., 2006. Creating Raising Verbs - An LFG-analysis of the Complex Passive in Danish, CSLI online publications.