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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

Hello everyone,
I have just studied "reflexive verbs in english" in my grammar book and then I came here. I have been learning english by myself for about one year. During this time I read and wrote a lot of sentences which have reflexive verbs without knowing they are "reflexive verbs". But I could understand their meaning from the context.

My mother language is Turkish, and Turkish has also reflexive verbs and pronouns as a concept. Of course grammar rules are different from english but if your mother language has this grammar rule as a consept (I think it has definitely has) you already use them.

There are more example of pronouns which are used reflexively, I expect more examples from you. Please give more example using sentence.

Hello biplab1,

You can find more examples on our reflexive pronouns page. A quick internet search will also give you many more if those aren't enough for you.

Best regards,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
What is the difference between 'change to' and change into''?

Hi naghmairam,

Generally, 'change to' suggests choosing or switching to an alternative, while 'change into' suggests a change in form:

My GPS has changed to a new route.

The wizard changed his cat into a dragon.

However, context is important here and there may be some common uses which do not fit this pattern.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,
What's the meaning of this,
What was done is done.
(My confusion is structure)
Thank you.

Hello dlis,

This means that 'the thing that was done' ('what was done') has been done or is finished. 'What was done' is a cleft structure and 'is done' is the verb plus a past participle being used as an adjective.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Team.
Could you help me to make a example with the reflexive pronoun 'yourselves', please? I'm quite difficult to find it.
Thanks.

Good evening,
I still have some problems with reflexive pronouns when the subject is "a person", "an individual", or something like that. In the following sentence, for example, what would the correct option be?
"to be an individual who fulfills themselves/himself-herself/oneseself"
Thank you in advance for your help.

Hello James1981Sar,

'An individual' is a non-specific in terms of gender and the standard pronoun to use in such cases is 'them' rather than 'he or she'. Therefore we would normally say 'to be an individual who fulfills themselves'.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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