{\rtf1\ansi\ansicpg1252 {\fonttbl\f0\fnil\fcharset0 ArialMT;} {\colortbl;\red255\green255\blue255;\red51\green51\blue51;\red255\green255\blue255;} \deftab720 \pard\pardeftab720\partightenfactor0 \f0\fs26 \cf2 \cb3 \expnd0\expndtw0\kerning0 \outl0\strokewidth0 \strokec2 }
Connect
To Top

Ambitransitive English Verbs

Verbs are traditionally defined as “words that describe actions or states of being.” Main or principal English verbs may be either intransitive or transitive. Ambitranitive verbs are English verbs that may be either transitive/ditransitive or intransitive depending on the context. Ambitransitive verbs can occur within passive constructions when transitive or ditransitive. Most English verbs are ambitransitive rather than purely intransitive or transitive.

Some common ambitransitive English verbs include the following:

  • break
  • cook
  • drink
  • open
  • pay
  • paint
  • read
  • sink

For example:

  • The workers painted yesterday. (intransitive)
  • My daughter painted her fingernails pink. (attributive ditransitive)
  • The man behind you already paid. (intransitive)
  • I paid the waiter for the broken glasses. (monotransitive)
  • The boat sank. (intransitive)
  • The German U-boat sank the British ship. (monotransitive)
  • The door opened. (intransitive)
  • He opened me a soda. (ditransitive)

Many English phrasal verbs are ambitransitive. Phrasal verbs are a common English verb form that consist of a verb followed by a p-word that functions as a particle. For example:

  • The baby woke up. (intransitive)
  • I woke the baby up. (transitive)
  • My dog threw up. (intransitive)
  • My dog threw up his dinner. (transitive)
  • The numbers do not add up. (intransitive)
  • Can you add up the numbers? (transitive)

Ambitransitive verbs can occur within passive constructions when transitive or ditransitive. The English language has two grammatical voices: active and passive. The active voice allows speakers to form sentences in which the grammatical subject performs the action of or acts upon the verb functioning as the predicate. The passive voice allows speakers to form sentences in which a direct or indirect object moves into the subject position. When transitive, ambitransitive verbs in active constructions can shift into the passive voice. For example:

  • Mom cooked. (intransitive, active voice)
  • *Was cooked by Mom. (intransitive, passive voice)
  • Mom cooked Thanksgiving dinner. (transitive, active voice)
  • Thanksgiving dinner was cooked by Mom. (transitive, passive voice)
  • Mom cooked us Thanksgiving dinner. (ditransitive, active voice)
  • Thanksgiving dinner was cooked for us by Mom. (transitive, passive voice)

Ambitranitive verbs are English verbs that may be either transitive/ditransitive or intransitive depending on the context. Ambitransitive verbs can occur within passive constructions when transitive/ditransitive.

References

Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Kilby, David. 1984. Descriptive syntax and the English verb. Dover, New Hampshire: Croom Helm.
Leech, Geoffrey N. 2004. Meaning and the English verb. Harlow, English: Pearson Longman.

More in English Verbs

  • English Auxiliary Verbs

    Auxiliary verbs are a subcategory of English verbs that provide additional semantic or syntactic information about the main verb in the...

    Heather JohnsonMarch 1, 2016
  • Attributive Ditransitive English Verbs

    Traditional notional grammars define verbs as “action or state of being words.” Transitive verbs in English grammar are main verbs that...

    Heather JohnsonFebruary 23, 2016
  • Ditransitive English Verbs

    Verbs have traditionally been defined as “action or state of being words.” Main verbs, or principal verbs, fall into five categories...

    Heather JohnsonFebruary 18, 2016
  • Monotransitive English Verbs

    Notional grammars describe verbs as “action or state of being words.” Main verbs, or principal verbs, fall into five categories in...

    Heather JohnsonFebruary 16, 2016
  • Transitive English Verbs

    Verbs have traditionally been defined as “action or state of being words.” Main verbs, or principal verbs, fall into five categories...

    Heather JohnsonFebruary 11, 2016
  • Copular English Verbs

    Traditional grammars define verbs as “action or state of being words.” Main verbs, or principal verbs, fall into five categories in...

    Heather JohnsonFebruary 9, 2016
  • Intransitive English Verbs

    Notional grammars define verbs as “action or state of being words.” Main verbs, or principal verbs, fall into five categories in...

    Heather JohnsonFebruary 7, 2016
  • Grammatical Forms of English Verb Phrases

    A verb phrase is a phrase in which a verb functions as the head of the phrase plus any auxiliaries (modals,...

    Heather JohnsonApril 29, 2014
  • English Verbs: Copular, Auxiliary, Modal, and Main Verbs

    As defined by traditional grammars, verbs are “action or state of being words.” Within verb phrases in English, there are four...

    Heather JohnsonApril 22, 2014

Pin It on Pinterest