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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

Sir,
What is "gym"?

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

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

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

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.

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