Encyclopedia > Ergative verb

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Ergative verb

In English language, an ergative verb is a verb whose action affects the subject, rather than the object, of the verb. Another way to describe this is that a normal verb's patient is its object, whereas an ergative verb's patient is its subject. Often, but not always, ergative verbs take no direct object. Some verbs can act as either a regular transitive verb or an ergative verb.

Examples of ergative-only verbs:

  • I think.
  • I see.
  • I understand.
  • I experience.

Examples of verbs that can be ergative or transitive:

  • open
    • The door opens.
    • John opens the door.
  • eat
    • I ate.
    • I ate a hamburger.

See also: intransitive, transitive, ditransitive; compare to ergative case, nominative case.

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