The Láadan Passive

For English, we construct a passive sentence by switching the word order of the Agent subject noun phrase and the Object noun phrase, adding a form of “be” to the predicate, and putting the preposition “by” in front of the subject. Like this:

1-a. The doctor examined the patient. [active sentence]

1-b. The patient was examined by the doctor. [passive sentence]


To construct the passive in Láadan, there are 3 steps to follow.

Step 1

Move the Agent subject noun phrase to Object position in the sentence — after the verb — and add to it the passive suffix “-shub.”

Step 2

Move the Object noun phrase, with its case marker, to a focus position immediately before the verb.

Step 3

When no Agent is present in the sentence, attach the passive suffix to the verb.


(1) Bíi eril bóodan háawith ruleth wa.

“The child rescued the cat.” [active sentence]

Steps 1 and 2:

(2) Bíi eril ruleth bóodan háawitheshub wa.

“The cat was rescued by the child.” [passive sentence]

Step 3:

(3) Bíi eril ruleth bóodaneshub wa.

“The cat was rescued.” [passive sentence with no Agent present]


Sentences (2) and (3), with the object placed in front of the verb, are very unusual constructions for Láadan — a language that ordinarily maintains verb, then subject, then Object, order.

This is deliberate. The goal is to signal immediately and unambiguously to the listener or reader that the sentence focuses significant importance on the Object noun phrase.