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Ergative verbs

Level: intermediate

Ergative verbs are both transitive and intransitive. The object when it is transitive is the same as the subject when it is intransitive:

Peter closed the door.
The door closed.
Transitive: N + V + N
Intransitive: N + V
I boiled some water.
The water boiled.
Transitive: N + V + N
Intransitive: N + V

Common ergative verbs are:

begin
break
change
close
crack
drop
dry
end
finish
grow
improve
increase
move
open
shake
start
stop
tear
turn

 

I broke the glass.
I dropped the glass and it broke.

The referee started the match.
The match started at 2.30.

We grew some tasty potatoes.
The potatoes were growing well.

The wind shook the trees.
The trees shook in the wind.

Verbs to do with cooking are often ergative:

bake
boil
cook
defrost
freeze
melt
roast
 

You should roast the meat at 200 degrees.
The meat was roasting in a hot oven.

I always defrost meat before I cook it.
I am waiting for the meat to defrost.

Melt the chocolate and pour it over the ice cream.
The chocolate was melting in a pan.

Verbs to do with vehicles are often ergative:

back
crash
drive
fly
reverse

 
run
sail

 
start
stop

 

I'm learning to fly a plane.
The plane flew at twice the speed of sound.

He crashed his car into a tree.
His car crashed into a tree.

 

Some verbs are ergative with only a few nouns:

catch: dress, coat, clothes, trousers, etc.
fire: gun, pistol, rifle, rocket, etc.
play: music, guitar, piano, CD, DVD, etc.
ring: bell, alarm, etc.

She caught her dress on a nail.
Her dress caught on a nail.

He fired a pistol to start the race.
A pistol fired to start the race.

Shall we play some music?
Some music played in the background.

There's a fire! Ring the alarm!
The fire alarm rang at 11.42 a.m.

Ergative verbs 1

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Comments

Thank you so much sir for making us clear on a often left topic.

Sir
Could we say like this
"many people got drowned when the ship overturned"
Using 'got' in the sentence and drowned as an adjective.

2nd "scare" is an ergative?

Hello Rsb,

Yes, you could say it that way.

You can find out this information yourself by checking the dictionary entry for 'scare'. When verbs are listed as 'I or T' (intransitive or transitive), they are usually ergative verbs.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir,

"Drown" can be both transitive and intransitive verb? Suppose,

1. He drowned me into the sea.-transitive verb
2. She drowned into the sea.- intransitive verb

Are these sentences correct?

Hello Rsb,

Yes, 'drown' can be transitive or intransitive. I'm afraid your sentences are not correct, however: you should use the preposition 'in' instead of 'into'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi peter sir,

"The policemen suspended after 30days of service."

Is above sentence grammatically correct? Is 'Suspend' doesn't represents ergative verb?

Hello Rsb,

Suspended is a transitive verb and requires an object. It can also be used in passive voice, of course, and this would be the most likely form here:

The policeman was suspended after...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir ,

But when I asked "the couple separated after 25years of marriage"

U told me that it was an instransitive verb. How it is different from above sentence the policemen suspended after 30days of service??

Hello Rsb,

I don't see where you asked this, but please note that 'separate' can be both transitive and intransitive. In the example you mention, it is clearly intransitive, as it has no object. 'suspend' on the other hand, has an object -- the policemen. Well, in the passive version, technically 'policemen' is the subject, but it means the same thing as the active version.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,

Why 'Suspend' can't be both transitive or intransitive verb?

And 2nd doubt:

Suppose, 'I separated the tunnel.(transitive verb) here action performed by me

The tunnel separated during 2nd war.(intransitive verb)
Here tunnel is a subject which is non living thing. are we talking about change in state of subject or about an action happening??
Is it quasi passive voice?

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