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ergative verb (plural ergative verbs)

  1. (linguistics) An ambitransitive verb where the patient is the object of the transitive, but becomes the experiencer of the intransitive use.
    Break is an ergative verb because when we say "The window broke", the window is the thing getting broken, it is not the vandal.
    Although it is both transitive and intransitive, paint is not an ergative verb, because when we say "Bob paints", this is very different from when we say "Bob gets painted".
    • 2000, Susan Hunston, Gill Francis, Pattern Grammar[1]:
      Consultation of a corpus of authentic English solved the problem, as clarify was found being used transitively in examples such as She clarified the situation and intransitively in examples such as The situation clarified, and could thus be classified as an ergative verb.

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