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

Hi Sridhar_45,

No, I'm afraid not. 'Enjoy' is a transitive verb, which means it needs an object:

I enjoyed the party.

I enjoyed the party with them.

I enjoyed it with them.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Do you have any lesson regarding with Basic Sentence Patterns? Thanks.

Hello dencasi,

We have a section entitled 'verb phrases' which could help you.  In the menu on the right you can find sub-pages on different aspects of the structures.

I hope that helps you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi! Sir.
First, thank you for the reply. I do really appreciate it a lot.
I speak English ever since I'm 7 years old (I live with the Americans since I'm 6 yrs. of age) and now I'm having a hard time to identifying, naming, classifying and understanding why the function of a word/phrase or clauses, is that way. But whenever I take some exercises here in British Council, I can get a high score, but then when it comes to I identifying, etc. in the sentence. It really giving me a hard time and it really affect my grades (I'm majoring in English).

I hope you can help me. :D :)
Thanks :)

Hi dencasi,

As I mentioned in my reply to your other comment, I'd encourage you to make the most you can of diagramming sentences. It's great that you get high scores when you actually use English grammar - that confirms that you actually know how to use grammar to communicate. The diagramming is a completely different kind of exercise, which perhaps you don't consider useful. But as I said in my other comment, try to find something useful in it, as surely there are lots of things you can learn from it.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Excuse me , what is the meaning of '' ergative " I cannot find it anywhere !

Hello FILOPOIMIN,

We divide verbs into two categories: transitive (with an object) and intransitive (without an object). For example:

I get up at 8.00. [no object = intransitive]
I met him yesterday. [with an object = transitive]

An ergative verb is a verb that can be both transitive and intransitive - it can be used with an object or without. For example:

I woke up at 6.00. [no object = intransitive]
I woke him up at 6.00. [with an object = transitive]

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

Peter
The LearnEnglish Team

these  ergative   verbs always  trouble  learners . But with  this part, it's ok now.

"
"some verbs change their meaning slightly when they are have a reflexive pronoun as direct object:"
At the above line you have written "they are have a reflexive pronoun as direct object"
tell me please is it correct to say that THEY ARE HAVE ?

 Hi Alien Mars

Thanks for pointing that out - something slipped past the proof readers.

This site is still in 'beta' mode and so you may find other bugs and mistakes that have to be corrected. 

If you spot anything else, please let us know.

Thanks again

Jack Radford

The LearnEnglish Team

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