lundi 15 septembre 2014

Top Tips Grammar: Ergative verbs

Main points

*Ergative verbs are both transitive and intransitive. The object of the transitive use is the subject of the intransitive use, for example ‘I opened the door’; ‘The door opened’.
*A few verbs are only ergative with particular nouns.
*A few of these verbs need an adverbial when they are used without an object.


a) Some verbs can be used as transitive verbs to focus on the person who performs an action, and as intransitive verbs to focus on the thing affected by the action.

- When I opened the door, there was Rolando.
- Suddenly the door opened.

Note that the object of the transitive verb, in this case ‘the door’, is the subject of the intransitive verb. Verbs like these are called ‘ergative’ verbs.


b) Ergative verbs often refer to:


begin dry improve stop
break end increase tear
change finish slow  
crack grow start  

- I broke the glass.
- The glass broke all over the floor.
- The driver stopped the car.
- A big car stopped.


bake defrost melt simmer
boil fry roast  

- I’ve boiled an egg.
- The porridge is boiling.
- I’m cooking spaghetti.
- The rice is cooking.

*position or movement

balance move rock turn
close open shake  
drop rest stand  

- She rested her head on his shoulder.
- Her head rested on the table.
- An explosion shook the hotel.
- The whole room shook.


back drive reverse sail
crash fly run  

- He had crashed the car twice.
- Her car crashed into a tree.
- She sailed her yacht round the world.
- The ship sailed on Monday.


c) Some verbs can be used in these two ways only with a small set of nouns. For example, you can say ‘He fired a gun’ or ‘The gun fired’. You can o the same with other words referring two types of gun, ‘cannon’, ‘pistol’, or ‘rifle’. However, although you can say ‘He fired a bullet’, you cannot say ‘The bullet fired’.

Catch : belt, cloth, clothing, dress, shirt, trousers
Fire : cannon, gun, pistol, rifle
Play : guitar, music, piano, violin
Ring : alarm, bell
Show : anger, disappointment, emotions, fear, joy
Sound : alarm, bell, horn

- I caught my dress on the fence.
- My tights caught on a nail.
- A car was sounding its horn.
- A horn sounded in the night.


d) A few verbs can be used in both ways, but need an adverbial when they are used without an object.

clean handle polish stain
freeze mark sell wash

- He sells books.
- This book is selling well.
- She had handled a machine gun.
- This car handles very nicely.





Top Tips Abz Ingles: Part A    -    Part B


See also:

Words related to Failure to Cooperate Irregular Verbs list
Common Phrasal Verbs Common Slangs
Common misspellings Regular vs Irregular Verbs
Common Errors Frequently confused words
Common Slangs Lista de Términos Gramaticales
Common Clichés Common Prepositions


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