Ergative Verbs

Ergative verbs are a type of verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive. In this lesson, we will learn more about this type of verbs.

Ergative Verbs in the English Grammar

What Are Ergative Verbs?

Ergative verbs (also known as labile verbs or ambitransitive verbs) are verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive.

A verb that is ergative can be used:

  • transitively (followed by an object)


  • intransitively (without mentioning the object)

What Are Ergative Verbs Used for?

In an ergative verb use, the subject of the intransitive verb would be the object of the transitive form of the verb. Take a look at these examples:

I rang the bell.

The bell rang.

I am cooking lasagna.

The lasagna is cooking.

The heat melted the snow.

The snow melted.

using an ergative verb (grow) in a sentence


Remember that the object of a transitive verb, which becomes the subject of an intransitive verb, usually refers to an object or a thing, not a person.

Common Ergative Verbs

Common ergative verbs in English are:

Verbs of tranform or change Verbs of cooking Verbs of transportation Verbs of movement
break bake drive walk
transform boil fly shake
burst cook reverse turn
form fry run move
heal sail sweep

Take a look at some examples:

The pilot flew the plane.

The plane flew in the sky.

We grew some tasty corns.

The corns were growing well.


Ergative verbs can be both transitive and intransitive verbs. The transitive form can mean the same or a little different from the intransitive verb.


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Ditransitive Verbs

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Complex Transitive Verbs

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Dummy Verbs

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