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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, 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

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

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?

Hello Rsb,

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

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks

Sir,
I have postponed the meeting.(Transitive verb and dynamic verb)

The meeting has postponed. (Intransitive verb) is it dynamic verb also here ??

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