One type of error frequently made by Japanese undergraduate students in their essays involves intransitive verbs such as occur, happen, and suffer. At first, it was thought that the reason for this type of error was simple transfer from their native tongue: intransitive as well as transitive verbs can be passivized in Japanese. Not all the intransitive verbs are passivized by the students, however, and closer inspection suggests that the students tend to passivize intransitive verbs when the sentences that contain them imply affectedness or adversity. One type of the ungrammatical passives differs from the so-called adversity passive in Japanese, and another behaves like the adversity passive, except that the former is ungrammatical while the latter is not. The reason for students' errors might be because they associate adversity with the passive construction and use passives whenever adversity is implied. Discussion of other expressions implying adversity and implications for both applied and theoretical linguistic work will also be given.
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