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*Gary UK*
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Ergative verbs (part 1?)
Instead of saying something like:
“The projectionist starts the film at 8 p.m. on screen 3.”
“The film is started at 8 p.m. on screen 3.”

We say:
“The film starts at 8 p.m. on screen 3.”

“Start” is an ergative verb.
What are ergative verbs?
With ergative verbs, the meaning of the sentence doesn’t change when the object of the sentence becomes the subject of the sentence:
“The projectionist starts the film at 8 p.m.”
“The film starts at 8 p.m.”

We do this when …
  1. we don’t care about the subject.
  2. something does the action to itself.
  3. we want to avoid responsibility.
Let’s check out some examples …

When we don’t care about the subject

Ergative verbs include:
  • open
  • close
  • start
  • change
  • stop
Lots of cooking verbs are also ergative:
  • boil
  • roast
  • freeze
  • dry
  • defrost
  • melt
  • bake
  • cook
To be continued? Let me know if you're interested and part 2 can be added.

May 19, 2020 3:54 PM
Comments · 3
Isn't that what usually is called intransitive?

ergative usually means that the verb does not agree with the subject as in most of the languages in Europe (except e.g. Basque). Instead it agrees with the direct object like e.g. in many Indian languages like Hindi and Urdu where this is how past tenses are built.
May 19, 2020
This qualifies as my "new thing to learn" for this week. And it's only Tuesday!

I noticed that Wikipedia also calls them "labile verbs":

I'd be interested in a Part 2, and also in knowing whether the term "ergative verb" is used more in British English and "labile verb" in American English. I'm too lazy to research it myself right now.
May 19, 2020
Thank you very much! It is very interesting for me. I would read part 2 with great pleasure.
May 19, 2020
*Gary UK*
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