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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

Hi sir,

A stray dog.
A strayed dog.

It is describing the dog(noun)

Stray or strayed both can be used as an adjectives?

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

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'

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,
'The computer will suspend very soon unless it is plugged in.'

Why 'suspend' is being used as an intransitive verb here?

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