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3.2.1.3.The regular passive
quickinfo

This section discusses personal passive constructions, that is, passive constructions with a derived subject. Two cases of personal passives should be distinguished: regular worden-passives such as (60b), whichinvolve promotion to subject of the direct objects of the corresponding active constructions, and so-called krijgen-passives such as (60c), whichinvolve promotion to subject of the indirect objects. This section is concerned with the regular passive; the krijgen-passive will be discussed in Section 3.2.1.4.

60
a. Marienom biedt hemdat het boekacc aan.
  Marie  offers  him  the book  prt.
b. Het boeknom wordt hemdat (door Marie) aangeboden.
regular passive
  the book  is  him   by Marie  prt.-offered
c. Hijnom krijgt het boekacc' aangeboden (door Marie).
krijgen-passive
  he  gets  the book  prt.-offered    by Marie
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[+]  I.  Verbs entering the regular passive

This subsection discusses the types of verbs that may enter the regular passive. Since the core property of the passive is the demotion of the external argument, it does not really come as a surprise that the core cases of the regular passive involve verbs with an agentive or causer subject. There are, however, several special cases, which will also be discussed in this subsection.

[+]  A.  Verbs with an agentive subject

Since agents are typically +animate entities, the regular passive involves the demotion of an animate subject in the majority of cases, as in the (a)-examples in (61). However, Section 3.2.1.1, sub III, has shown that, if an inanimate entity is construed as agentive, passivization is possible as well. This is illustrated again by the (b)-examples.

61
a. Jan bestudeert het passief.
  Jan investigates  the passive
  'Jan is investigating the passive.'
a'. Het passief wordt door Jan bestudeerd.
  the passive  is  by Jan  investigated
  'The passive is investigated by Jan.'
b. Die machine sorteert het huisafval.
  that machine  sorts.out  the household.garbage
  'That machine sorts out the household garbage.'
b'. Het huisafval wordt door die machine gesorteerd.
  the  household.garbage  is  by that machines  sorted.out
[+]  B.  Verbs with a causer/cause subject

A causer can be considered a special kind of agent, and it is therefore not surprising that verbs with a causer subject can also be passivized. This is illustrated here by means of the transitive verb breken'to break' in the (a)-examples in (62). The demoted subject of the causative verb can also be inanimate as long as it is construed as the causer of the event; this is shown in the (b)-examples.

62
a. Jan breekt de vaas.
  Jan  breaks  the vase
a'. De vaas wordt (door Jan) gebroken.
  the vase  is   by Jan  broken
b. Die machine breekt het afgekeurde porselein.
  that machine  breaks  the disapproved china
  'That machine breaks the disapproved china.'
b'. Het afgekeurde porselein wordt door die machine gebroken.
  the disapproved china  is  by that machine  broken

The primed examples in (63) suggest that causative object experiencer psych-verbs like irriteren'to irritate' and overtuigen'to convince' (cf. Section 2.5.1.3, sub II) can also be passivized. This requires, however, that the met-PP referring to the cause (the means by which the causer brings about the mental state of the experiencer) is not overtly realized.

63
a. JanCauser irriteert haarExp met zijn gezeurCause.
  Jan  irritates  her  with his nagging
a'. Zij wordt door Jan geïrriteerd (*met zijn gezeur).
  she  is  by  Jan  irritated     with his nagging
b. JanCauser overtuigt haarExp met zijn verhaalCause.
  Jan  convinces  her  with his story
b'. Zij wordt door Jan overtuigd (*met zijn verhaal).
  she  is  by Jan  convinced     with his story

A typical property of the psych-verbs in (63) is that the cause can also be realized as the subject of the active construction, as in the primeless examples of (64). The primed examples again suggest that passivization of such causative psych-constructions is possible.

64
a. Zijn gezeurCause irriteert haarExp.
  his nagging  irritates  her
a'. Zij wordt door zijn gezeur geïrriteerd.
  she  is  by his nagging  irritated
b. Zijn verhaalCause overtuigde haarExp.
  his story  convinced  her
b'. Zij werd door zijn verhaal overtuigd.
  she  was  by his story  convinced

The claim that we are dealing with passives in the primed examples in (63) and (64) presupposes that the door-PPs are agentive phrases similar to the ones we find in unequivocal passive examples. This seems, however, to be at odds with the fact that the door-phrases in (64) contain an inanimate, non-agentive noun phrase. Furthermore there is an alternative analysis according to which the door-phrases function as causative adjuncts comparable to the ones we find in unaccusative constructions like De ruit brak door de harde wind'The window broke due to the hard wind'. A final reason for doubting the passive analysis of the primed examples in (63) and (64) is that the verb worden can be replaced by raken'to get', which is typically used with a copular-like function.

65
a. Zij raakte/werd door Jan/zijn gezeur geïrriteerd.
  she  got/became  by  Jan/his nagging  irritated
b. Zij raakte/werd door Jan/zijn verhaal overtuigd.
  she  got/became  by Jan/his story convinced

The examples in (65) strongly suggest that the verb worden in (63) and (64) is also used as a copular verb meaning "become". If so, we would expect that in embedded clauses the participle must precede the finite verb. The judgments on the primed examples in (66) show, however, that this expectation is not really borne out; for at least some speakers the order worden-participle is considerably better than the order raken-participle.

66
a. dat zij door Jan/zijn gezeur geïrriteerd raakte/werd.
  that  she  by Jan/his nagging  irritated  got/became
a'. dat zij door Jan/zijn gezeur *raakte/%werd geïrriteerd.
b. dat zij door Jan/zijn verhaal overtuigd raakte/werd.
  that  she  by Jan/his story  convinced  got/became
b'. dat zij door Jan/zijn verhaal *raakte/%werd overtuigd.

We therefore conclude that it is not entirely clear on the basis of the currently available evidence whether we are dealing with passive or copular (adjectival passive) constructions in the primed examples in (63) and (64); see Section 2.5.1.3, sub IID, for more relevant discussion.
      We conclude with a discussion of a set small set of causative non-experiencer verbs exhibiting behavior more or less similar to that of object experiencer psych-verbs like irriteren'to irritate', cf. Section 2.5.1.3, sub V. A typical example is the verb verduidelijken'to clarify' in (67), which, like irriteren, allows the subject of the active construction to be either a causer or a cause.

67
a. JanCauser verduidelijkte de stelling met een voorbeeldCause.
  Jan  clarified  the thesis  with an example
a'. De stelling werd (door Jan) met een voorbeeld verduidelijkt.
  the thesis  was   by Jan  with an example  clarified
b. Dit voorbeeldCause verduidelijkt de stelling aanzienlijk.
  this example  clarifies  the thesis  considerably
b'. De stelling wordt door dit voorbeeld aanzienlijk verduidelijkt.
  the thesis  is  by this example  considerably  clarified

It is again not clear whether the primed examples are passive counterparts of the primeless examples, given that the door-phrase is causative in nature. This is especially evident in this case given that some of these causative verbs may also take a causative door-phrase in the active voice. As a result there is no doubt that the door-phrase in (68c) can be construed as causative.

68
a. Jan redde de situatie door zijn doortastend optreden.
  Jan saved  the situation  by his vigorous action
b. Zijn doortastend optreden redde de situatie.
  his vigorous action  saved  the situation
c. De situatie werd gered door zijn doortastend optreden.
  the situation  was  saved  by his vigorous action

If (68c) were a passive construction and if the door-phrase in this example were the same type of phrase as the door-phrase in (68a), we would expect that we may add an additional agentive door-phrase in (68c). Our intuitions given in (69) are not entirely clear and depend on the precise positions of the two door-phrases.

69
a. ?? Door zijn doortastend optreden werd de situatienom door Jan gered.
  by his vigorous act  was  the situation  by Jan  saved
b. ?? De situatienom werd door Jan door zijn doortastend optreden gered.
c. ?? De situatienom werd door zijn doortastend optreden door Jan gered.
d. *? Door Jan werd de situatienom door zijn doortastend optreden gered.

It seems premature to us to draw any conclusions from the examples in (69); again it is not clear on the basis of the currently available evidence whether we are dealing with a passive or a copular (adjectival passive) construction in the primed examples in (67).

[+]  C.  Other verbs

There are various types of non-agentive/non-causative verbs with inanimate subjects that nevertheless do allow passivization. Some examples are given in (70). Other verbs of this type are begrenzen'to bound', omcirkelen'to encircle', omlijsten'to frame', omringen'to surround', overdekken'to cover', and overwoekeren'to overgrow'. Observe that the passive counterparts of the stative primeless examples in (70) require the door-phrase to be present; if it is absent the passive verbs receive an agentive, activity reading.

70
a. De snelwegen omringen dat huis aan alle kanten.
  the highways  surround  that house  at all sides
a'. Dat huis wordt aan alle kanten #(door snelwegen) omringd.
  that house  is  at all sides     by highways  surrounded
b. Tal van rivieren doorsnijden het land.
  many of rivers  crisscross  the land
  'A great number of rivers crisscross the land.'
b'. Het land wordt #(door tal van rivieren) doorsneden.
  the land  is     by many of rivers  crisscrossed
  'A great number of rivers crisscross the land.'

Other non-agentive verbs that can be found in the regular passive are verbs taking an object with propositional content like aantonen'to demonstrate', bewijzen'to prove', demonstreren'to show/demonstrate', bepalen'to determine', impliceren'to imply' as well as the verb vormen'to make up'. The examples in (71) show that in these cases too, the passive constructions must contain a door-PP.

71
a. Die maatregelen impliceren een grotere werkloosheid.
  these measures  imply  a greater unemployment
  'These measures imply greater unemployment.'
a'. Een grotere werkloosheidnom wordt *(door die maatregelen) geïmpliceerd.
  a greater unemployment  is      by these measures  implied
b. Twaalf dozijn vormt een grosacc.
  twelve dozen  makes.up  a gross
  'Twelve dozen make up a gross.'
b'. Een grosnom wordt gevormd *(door twaalf dozijn).
  a gross  is  made.up      by twelve dozen

The (a)-examples in (72) show that measure verbs like duren'to last', kosten'to cost', tellen'to count' and wegen'to weigh' with a non-agentive subject cannot be passivized. If the verb denotes an activity, as in the (b)-examples, passivization is possible.

72
a. Peter weegt 100 pond.
  Peter weighs  100 pound
a'. * 100 pond wordt/worden (door Peter) gewogen.
  100 pound  is/are   by Peter  weighed
b. Peter weegt de appels.
  Peter weighs  the apples
b'. De appels worden (door Peter) gewogen.
  the apples  are   by Peter  weighed
  'The apples are being weighed by Peter.'

The difference between the two sets of examples could in principle be attributed to the non-agentive nature of the subject in (72a), but it is sometimes also assumed that it is the nature of the nominal complement (here: 100 pond) that is relevant; it is not a direct object but a predicatively used phrase comparable to the adjective zwaar in Jan weegt zwaar'Jan weighs heavy'.

[+]  II.  The derived subject of the regular passive

This subsection discusses a number of properties of derived subjects in regular passive constructions.

[+]  A.  The thematic role of the derived subject

Since regular passivization results in promotion to subject of the theme argument of the active verb, it is sometimes claimed that an important function of regular passivization is "externalization" of the internal argument of the active verb. Section 3.2.1.1, sub IV, has already shown that this cannot be correct; the obligatoriness of the complementives van de tafel af'from the table' and kapot'broken' in the primeless examples in (73) shows that the accusative noun phrases are subjects (external arguments) of these phrases, and not internal arguments of the verb vegen.

73
a. Jan veegde de kruimels *(van de tafel af).
  Jan wiped  the crumbs     from the table af
a'. De kruimels werden (door Jan) van de tafel af geveegd.
  the crumbs  were   by Jan  from the table af  wiped
b. Jan veegde de bezem *(kapot).
  Jan  brushed  the broom    broken
b'. De bezem werd (door Jan) kapot geveegd.
  the broom  was   by Jan  broken  brushed

Section 3.2.1.1, sub IV, concluded from this that, in contrast to the active verb, the passive participle is unable to assign accusative case to the noun phrase de kruimels/de bezem, which must therefore be promoted to subject in order to receive nominative case. That we are not dealing with externalization of the internal argument is also clear from the fact that arguments that are not assigned accusative case but surface in the form of a PP cannot be promoted to subject; intransitive PO-verbs only give rise to impersonal passivization; see Subsection IVB.

74
a. Wij spraken lang over die jongen/hem.
  we  talked  a.long.time  about that boy/him
  'We talked about that boy/him for a long time.'
b. Er werd (door ons) lang over die jongen/hem gesproken.
  there  was   by us  long  about that boy/him  talked
b'. * Die jongen/Hij werd (door ons) lang over gesproken.
  that boy/he  was   by us  a.long.time  about  talked

The (a)-examples in (75) show the same thing for complement clauses. Note in passing that the expletive er in (75a') does not have the syntactic function of subject, that is, it is not an anticipatory pronoun introducing the embedded clause. This function is restricted to the pronoun het in the (b)-examples. The passive examples in (75) thus differ in that the passive construction in (75a') is an impersonal passive, whereas the one in (75b') is a regular passive.

75
a. Jan zei dat het boek gestolen was.
  Jan  said  that  the book  stolen  was
  'Jan said that the book was stolen.'
a'. Er werd (door Jan) gezegd dat het boek gestolen was.
  there  was   by Jan  said  that  the book  stolen  was
b. Jan zei het dat het boek gestolen was.
  Jan  said  it  that  the book  stolen  was
  'Jan said it that the book was stolen.'
b'. Het werd (door Jan) gezegd dat het boek gestolen was.
  it  was   by Jan  said  that  the book  stolen  was
[+]  B.  Placement of the derived subject (nominative-dative inversion)

In English, the derived subject is not only assigned nominative case but also obligatorily placed in the regular subject position of the clause. The latter does not hold for Dutch: the derived subject may remain in its original position, that is, the position normally occupied by the direct object of the active verb. This can readily be demonstrated by means of the passive counterparts of the active ditransitive construction in (76a); the derived object may either follow or precede the indirect object, an option that is not available to the subject of active constructions (like Jan in (76a)).

76
a. dat Jan de kinderendat dat mooie boekacc aangeboden heeft.
  that  Jan the children  that beautiful book  prt.-offered  has
  'that Jan offered the children that beautiful book.'
b. dat de kinderendat dat mooie boeknom aangeboden werd.
  that  the children  that beautiful book  prt.-offered  was
b'. dat dat mooie boeknom de kinderendat aangeboden werd.
  that  that beautiful book  the children  prt.-offered  was

The difference between the two (b)-examples in (76) is related to the information structure of the clause: if the derived subject surfaces in its original position, as in (76b), it typically belongs to the focus ("new" information) of the clause, whereas it is presented as part of the presupposition("old" information) of the clause if it is placed in the canonical subject position, as in (76b'). That this is the case is supported by the distribution of (non-specific) indefinite noun phrases like een mooi boek'a beautiful book', which typically belong to the focus, and referential personal pronouns like het'it', which typically belong to the presupposition of the clause; the examples in (77) show that the former normally follow and the latter precede the indirect object.

77
a. dat de kinderen een mooi boek/*het aangeboden werd.
  that  the children  a beautiful book/it  prt.-offered  was
  'that a beautiful book was offered to the children.'
b. dat het/*een mooi boek de kinderen aangeboden werd.
  that  it/a beautiful book  the children  prt.-offered  was
  'that it was offered to the children.'

The examples in (76) and (77) show that the placement of the derived subject into the regular subject position is subject to conditions similar to scrambling of nominal objects; cf. Section N8.1.3. This is not really surprising given that the placement of subjects of active clauses is also subject to similar conditions. This is illustrated in example (78a), in which the position of the adverbial phrase gisteren'yesterday' shows that the subject does not have to occupy the canonical subject position right-adjacent to the complementizer. The (b)- and (c)-examples show that the information structure of the clause is also involved in this case. Note in passing that the presence of er in (78b) depends on whether gisteren'yesterday' is presented as part of the focus or the presupposition of the clause; cf. N8.1.4. Note further that we assume a more or less neutral intonation pattern; example (78b') becomes acceptable if the noun phrase een student is assigned contrastive focus.

78
a. dat <die student> gisteren <die student> weer belde.
  that  that student  yesterday  again  phoned
b. dat (er) gisteren een student belde.
  that  there  yesterday  a student  phoned
b'. ?? dat een student gisteren belde.
c. dat <hij> gisteren <*hij> belde.
  that    he  yesterday  phoned

For completeness' sake, it can further be observed that in some cases the derived subject can never be placed in the regular subject position. This holds for passive counterparts of idiomatic expressions like (79a&b), in which the obligatory presence of the expletive er'there' suggests that the derived subject is not in the canonical subject position. The reason for this is probably that the derived subject is not referential, and therefore cannot be part of the presupposition of the clause.

79
a. dat Jan een stokje voor dat plan stak.
  that  Jan  a stick  in.front.of that plan  put
  'Jan forestalled that plan.'
a'. dat ??(er) een stokje voor dat plan gestoken werd.
  that  there  a stick  in.front.of that plan  put  was
b. dat Peter de draakacc met Els stak.
  that  Peter  the dragon  with Els  stabbed
  'Peter always made fun of Els.'
b'. dat ?(er) de draaknom met Els werd gestoken.
  that  there  the dragon  with Els  was  stabbed
[+]  C.  Grammatical function of the promoted object in the active clause

The derived subject in regular passives normally corresponds to the accusative phrase in the corresponding active clause. In some cases, however, it seems that dative phrases can also be promoted to subject in the regular passive.

[+]  1.  Transitive, ditransitive and intransitive PO-verbs

English and Dutch differ with respect to the original grammatical function of the object that is promoted to subject in passive constructions. This does not, of course, hold for regular passives of transitive clauses, given that the direct object is the only available one in such cases.

80
a. Marienom slaat haaracc.
  Marie  beats  her
b. Zijnom wordt/is (door Marie) geslagen.
  she  is/have.been   by Marie  beaten
  'She is/has been beaten (by Marie).'

English and Dutch do differ, however, if the verb is ditransitive. In English, the derived subject may correspond to either the direct or the indirect object, depending on whether the indirect object is realized as a noun phrase or a PP. In Dutch, on the other hand, it is normally the direct object that is promoted to subject, as is shown in the examples in (81).

81
a. Ik bood de boeken aan Jan aan.
prepositional indirect object
  offered  the books  to Jan  prt.
a'. De boeken werden aan Jan aangeboden.
  the books  were  to Jan  prt.-offered
  'The books were offered to Jan.'
b. Ik bood Jan/hem de boeken aan.
dative indirect object
  offered  Jan/him  the books  prt.
b'. De boeken werden Jan/hem aangeboden.
  the books  were  Jan/him  prt.-offered
b''. * Jan/Hij werd de boeken aangeboden.
  Jan/he  was  the books  prt.-offered

The promoted objects in (80) and (81) are internal arguments of the verbs. Recall from Subsection A, however, that externalization of internal arguments is not the core property of passivization given that intransitive PO-verbs or verbs selecting a clause only give rise to impersonal passivization. It is therefore not the thematic but the case assignment relation between the verb and its objects that is relevant.

[+]  2.  Ditransitive verbs with a clausal direct object

Although regular passivization normally involves promotion of the accusative noun phrase to subject, there seem to be some, at least marginally acceptable, cases that involve the promotion of an indirect object to subject. This is, for instance, the case with object controlverbs like verzoeken'to request' in (82). Besides the expected impersonal passive construction in (82b), the construction in (82c) is regularly produced. Other object control verbs that seem to allow promotion of the indirect object are aanraden'to recommend', beletten'to prevent', verbieden'to prohibit', verwijten'to blame' and vragen'to ask'.

82
a. Peternom verzocht de studenten/hun [PRO het terrein te verlaten].
  Peter  requested  the students/them  the premises  to leave
  'Peter asked the students to leave.'
b. Er werd de studenten/hun verzocht het terrein te verlaten.
  there  was  the students/them  requested  the premises  to leave
c. % De studenten/zij werden verzocht het terrein te verlaten.
  the students/they  were  requested  the premises  to leave

The judgments of our informants do not really change if the complement clause in (82) is replaced by a PP-complement; see also Section 2.3.3, sub IID, where it is shown that PO-verbs with a dative object exhibit this behavior in general.

83
a. Peter heeft zijn schuldeisers/hun om uitstel van betaling verzocht.
  Peter has  his creditors/them  for suspension of payment  requested
  'Peter has asked his creditors/them for suspension of payment.'
b. Er is zijn schuldeisers/hun om uitstel van betaling verzocht.
  there  is his creditors/them  for suspension of payment  requested
c. % Zijn schuldeisers/Zij worden om uitstel van betaling verzocht.
  his creditors/they  are  for suspension of payment  requested

However, if the complement clause in (82) is replaced by a pronominal noun phrase, promotion of the indirect object leads to a severely degraded result. This suggests that promotion of the indirect object is only possible if no accusative noun phrase is present.

84
a. Peter heeft de studenten/hun dat verzocht.
  Peter has  the students/them  that  requested
  'Peter has asked that of the students/them.'
b. Dat is de studenten/hun verzocht.
  that is  the students/them  requested
c. * De studenten/Zij zijn dat verzocht.
  the students/they  are  that  requested

It is tempting to speculate that the acceptability of the (c)-examples in (82) and (83) is the result of a reanalysis process that started with an incorrect analysis of examples such as (85); since the object and the subject form of the politeness pronoun are identical, this may have led to misinterpretation of u'you' as a subject pronoun.

85
U wordt verzocht [PRO de rekening zo spoedig mogelijk te voldoen].
  you  are  requested  the bill  as soon as possible  to pay
'You are requested to pay the bill as soon as possible.'

It has also been suggested that the acceptability of the (c)-examples in (82) and (83) is due to the fact that the verb verzoeken'to request' has a meaning akin to that of the transitive PO-verb uitnodigen (tot)'to invite'; see onzetaal.nl/advies/reizigers.php. It is highly unlikely, however, that verzoeken is a transitive PO-verb if it selects a complement clause, as in (82), given that example (84) has already shown that the pronominalized form of the complement clause is a pronoun and not a pronominal PP; this shows unequivocally that we are dealing in (82) with a regular ditransitive verb and not with a PO-verb.

[+]  3.  Ditransitive verbs like voeren'to feed' and betalen'to pay'

The generalization that promotion to subject of the indirect object is (only) possible if no accusative noun phrase is present may also shed light on the exceptional behavior of verbs like voeren'to feed', betalen'to pay', vergeven'to forgive' and voorlezen'to read aloud to'. Consider the examples in (86). Example (86a) shows that the verb voeren can be used as a ditransitive verb, and the singular inflection on the auxiliary in (86a') shows that its passive counterpart involves promotion to subject of the accusative phrase brood. The verb voeren is somewhat special, however, in that it has a cognate direct object that can be left implicit, as shown in example (86b); in this case the indirect object can, or actually must, be promoted to subject.

86
a. Jan voerde de eendjesdat broodacc.
  Jan fed  the ducks  bread
a'. Er werd/*werden de eendjesdat broodnom gevoerd.
  there  was/were  the ducks  bread  fed
b. Jan voerde de eendjesdat/acc?.
  Jan fed the  ducks
b'. De eendjesnom werden/werd gevoerd.
  the ducks  were/was  fed

Example (87) provides similar examples for the verb betalen'to pay'; in the (a)-examples the verb is ditransitive and it is the direct object een hoog loon rather than the indirect object de werknemers that must be promoted to subject; in the (b)-examples the direct object is omitted and now it is the noun phrase de werknemers that must be promoted to subject; cf. Van den Toorn (1971).

87
a. Els betaalt de werknemersdat een hoog loonacc.
  Els pays  the employees  a high salary
a'. Er wordt/*worden de werknemersdat een hoog loonnom betaald.
  there  is/are  the employees  a high salary  paid
b. Els betaalde de werknemersdat/acc? niet op tijd.
  Els paid  the employees  not  in time
b'. De werknemersnom werden/*werd niet op tijd betaald.
  the workers  were/was  not  in time  paid

If one does not want to appeal to the idea that promotion of the indirect object is possible if no accusative noun phrase is present, one would be forced to assume that the objects de eendjes and de werknemers have different grammatical functions in the (a)- and (b)-examples, namely that of indirect and direct object, respectively. Such a view might be undesirable given that these objects have a similar semantic role in all cases, namely that of recipient, but we cannot rule out this possibility beforehand.

[+]  4.  Verbs corresponding to German verbs with a dative complement

Another reason for accepting the generalization that promotion of the indirect object is possible if no accusative noun phrase is present comes from verbs like assisteren'to assist', gehoorzamen'to obey', helpen'to help', huldigen'to honor', and volgen'to follow'. The primed examples in (88) show that these verbs all allow personal passivization in Dutch, even though the Standard German counterparts of these verbs take a dative object; see Drosdowski (1995:608-9) for an extensive list of such verbs. One might, of course, assume that the syntactic function of the objects in the Dutch examples simply differs from those in the corresponding German constructions, but then we would have to conclude that the assignment of syntactic functions may differ considerably even among closely related languages.

88
a. De jongens gehoorzaamden de agent.
  the boys  obeyed  the policeman
a'. De agent werd (door de jongens) gehoorzaamd.
  the policeman  was   by the boys  obeyed
b. Jan helpt mijn vader.
  Jan helps  my father
b'. Mijn vader wordt (door Jan) geholpen.
  my father  is   by Jan  helped

For completeness' sake, note that a special problem is constituted by the verb danken in (89a), which also takes a dative object in German. In Dutch, this verb resists both impersonal and personal passivization. Perhaps the unacceptability of the constructions in (89b&c) is due to the fact that danken is somewhat formal. The more usual form is bedanken (which clearly takes an accusative object in Dutch).

89
a. Ik dank hem voor zijn hulp.
  thank  him  for his help
b. * Er werd hem gedankt voor zijn hulp.
  there  was  him thanked  for his help
c. * Hij werd gedankt voor zijn hulp.
  he  was  thanked  for his help
[+]  5.  Idiomatic ditransitive constructions

Promotion of the indirect object is sometimes also accepted with some more or less fixed expressions that include a direct object. Consider example (90a) with the collocation iemand slagen toebrengen'to beat someone'. The expected passive form of this example is given in (90b), in which the direct object enkele slagen functions as the subject of the passive construction, as is clear from the fact that it agrees in number with the auxiliary verb worden. However, if the noun phrase de jongen is placed in clause-initial position, many speakers also accept singular agreement on the auxiliary, which suggests that this noun phrase is promoted to subject.

90
a. De agent bracht de jongen/hemdat enkele slagenacc toe.
  the policeman  gave  the boy/him  several blows  prt.
  'The police officer gave the boy/him some blows.'
b.