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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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 18/11/2021 - 08:08

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Hello. Could you please tell me how to use the verb "rank" correctly? When is it used in the active and passive thanks! For example:
- He was ranked second in his age group.
- At the height of her career she ranked second in the world.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

In the first sentence, 'rank' is in the passive voice. This is an example of the transitive use of the verb, which means 'to position in a list'. In this use, 'rank' is not always passive; for example, you could say 'He ranked the children by age'.

In the second sentence, 'rank' is intransitive and expresses the same idea of being in a position in a list.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Wed, 16/06/2021 - 19:14

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Sir, What is "gym"? "Gym" is an object(thing) or place under the definition of noun?

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 17/06/2021 - 07:08

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

These are not mutually exclusive things. Gym refers to a place - a bulding where you can exercise. It may also be an object when it is used in a sentence. It may be a subject, of course. Its role in the sentence depends on the construction of the sentence; particular words do not have only one grammatical role.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Wed, 16/06/2021 - 13:19

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Hello. Could you please help me? Active or passive or both? 1- The report is about to finish. 2- The report is about to be finished. Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The correct answer is (b) - passive voice. The report does not finish itself; someone finishes it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 31/05/2021 - 15:47

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Hi sir, A stray dog. A strayed dog. It is describing the dog(noun) Stray or strayed both can be used as an adjectives?

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 01/06/2021 - 07:36

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

The adjective here is stray, as in a dog which has no home or has escaped and lives on the street.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Can't we say 'a strayed dog' 'Strayed' can't be an adjective in past participle form?

Hello again Rsb,

No, we cannot say strayed here. As an adjective, it would have a passive meaning. Just as 'a killed dog' means someone killed it, 'a strayed dog' would suggest someone 'strayed' the dog,. However, 'stray' is an intransitive verb which takes no object and so has no passive form. Therefore it cannot be used with this meaning here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

'Stray' have a two meaning: One is homeless. Other is who has lost his way. Suppose, 'The boy strayed into the street while coming to my home'. Stray is a verb here.

Hello Rsb,

'stray' is normally an adjective or a verb. It's also possible to say 'a stray', but this is really 'a stray dog' but with the noun omitted.

Please note we don't usually use 'stray' to refer to people -- typically it refers to pets such as cats and dogs. There are other uses, but I've never heard it used to refer to homeless people. 

The sentence you cite is correct. The verb 'strayed' is in the past simple and is intransitive, as Peter pointed out.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, the sentence I used here it means that the boy who forgot the way and lost What will be the adjective word who forget the way and lost ?

Hello Rsb,

No, I'm afraid that's not correct in standard British or American English. 'The boy who strayed into the street' doesn't mean the boy is lost, but rather that he entered the street without realising it.

I'd suggest you look up 'stray' in several dictionaries and that you do some internet searches to see how exactly the word is used. I'm afraid we can't provide extended explanations of how words are used -- that's something you have to work out on your own. We're happy to give you some pointers from time to time, but it will be much more effective for you to spend time studying these things by reading about them.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir what I meant to ask 'stray dog' who forget his way to home. So can't we say 'he is a stray dog or he is a strayed dog'

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 17/05/2021 - 05:53

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Sir, 'The computer will suspend very soon unless it is plugged in.' Why 'suspend' is being used as an intransitive verb here?

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 17/05/2021 - 07:14

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

I have no idea, to be frank. It does not look correct to me.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir, I found this sentence in the dictionary where 'suspend' was defined through this sentence.

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 18/05/2021 - 07:21

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi Rsb,

It's possible that the verb is used in this way in some contexts. To my ear it sounds unnatural, however, and I would not use it in this way.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Shaban Nafea on Fri, 26/03/2021 - 18:26

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Hello, Sir is it correct to use the verb "launch" the same in other words, is it correct to say: - the spaceship launches at 7. - the spaceship is launched at 7.

Hello Shaban Nafea,

When we use 'launch' to refer to vessels or missiles, it's usually a transitive verb -- in other words, it has an object. You can see this in the example sentences if you follow the link. I'd recommend you use a similar structure or that you use the second sentences above, which is passive, though I'd probably change 'is' to 'will be' or 'is going to be'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Tue, 02/02/2021 - 18:00

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Hello. Are the following two sentences correct? 1- To make tea, the water must be boiled. 2- To make tea, the water must boil. Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Yes! Both versions are correct, and the meaning is the same.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 17/12/2020 - 23:27

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Sir, 1. 'You wake me up' and 2. 'You make me awake' Are both sentences correct and has the same meaning? Can we make the same sentence(You make me awake) with the help of causative verb right?

Hello Rsb,

Although people would understand 2 if you said it, I'm afraid it's not correct. It's grammatically possible to say 'You made me wake up' or 'They're going to have me woken up early in the morning', if that's what you mean.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, "You made me awake" is it grammatically not correct?

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 28/12/2020 - 18:16

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

No, it is not. 'You made me wake' ('wake' is an infinitive) is correct.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 10:10

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Sir, I have postponed the meeting.(Transitive verb and dynamic verb) The meeting has postponed. (Intransitive verb) is it dynamic verb also here ??

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 04/12/2020 - 13:57

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

I'm afraid the second sentence is not correct, at least in standard British English. You could make it a passive form (in which case it is also a dynamic, transitive verb): 'The meet has been postponed'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir if this sentence is incorrect then why this below sentence is correct The contract has finished.

Hi Rsb,

It's because finish is both intransitive and transitive, but postpone is transitive only. Here's a link to postpone in the Cambridge Dictionary - the 'T' after verb shows that it's transitive.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/postpone

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 07/12/2020 - 18:29

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Sir, Separate is also a transitive and intransitive verb? If we use verb 'separate' as an intransitive, does it works as an action verb also or works as an state verb for example, The couple separated after 25years of marriage.

Submitted by Jonathan R on Tue, 08/12/2020 - 02:34

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi rsb,

Yes! Separate is transitive and intransitive, and it is an action verb in this example.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Wed, 09/12/2020 - 04:04

In reply to by Jonathan R

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Jonathan sir, How it is action verb in this context? And "meeting has started" how it is an action verb in this context also?

Hi Rsb,

The meaning of separate in this context is this (I quote it from the Cambridge Dictionary): 

  • to start to live in a different place from your husband or wife because the relationship has ended

It's an action verb because it means starting to live in a different place (not the state of living in a different place), and 'starting' something is an action. This is also why has started is an action verb in your second example.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tika on Tue, 21/07/2020 - 03:11

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

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 13/07/2020 - 15:09

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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?

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 15/07/2020 - 07:12

In reply to by Rsb

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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

Submitted by Rsb on Sun, 12/07/2020 - 06:59

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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

Submitted by Rsb on Sun, 28/06/2020 - 05:29

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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??

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 29/06/2020 - 16:06

In reply to by Rsb

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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?

Submitted by Jasrap on Mon, 22/01/2018 - 11:58

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Thanks, appreciate your help

Submitted by Jasrap on Sun, 21/01/2018 - 22:29

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Hi Could you please tell me what is wrong with this sentence She prides on her beauty.

Submitted by Peter M. on Mon, 22/01/2018 - 07:50

In reply to by Jasrap

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Hi Jasrap,

The sentence needs a reflexive pronoun:

She prides herself on her beauty.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sorry , Just one last thing . Is it right to say that we should never use the reflexive verbs without the reflexive pronouns. I am a little confused with their use Thanks again for your time in answering my questions:) Preeti J