Learn about ergative verbs, which can be transitive or intransitive, and do the exercises to practise using them.

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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Hello Preeti J,

Reflexive verbs are also used without reflexive pronouns, but in that case they're not considered reflexive verbs. For example, in 'I cut myself with a knife by accident', 'cut myself' is reflexive, but in 'I cut the onion with a knife', 'cut' is not reflexive.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team