delexical verbs

Discussion in 'English Only' started by dycentra, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. dycentra Junior Member

    Canadian English
    Does anyone know a good reference for delexical verbs? I saw the term in a Collins grammar and thought it would be useful but my other grammar books don't mention the subject. I teach English to advanced students and I think it would be useful.
  2. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Hi, dycentra - what do you mean by "delexical verbs"? Modal verbs? Auxiliary verbs? Copular verbs?

    I'm sure we'll find something to help if you explain further...:)
  3. mother earth Senior Member

    Atlanta, Georgia, USA
    Easily found a good explanation by using a search engine:
    Delexical verbs

    The verbs GIVE, HAVE, MAKE and TAKE can be used with little lexical meaning while the dO noun phrase represents the action: give an answer, have a shower, make progress, take a walk. The verbs are then known as delexical verbs. The delexical verb GIVE can be used in a construction with two objects (She gave the car a kick / Let's give it a try) which formally resembles the iO+dO combination after GIVE used as a standard ditransitive verb (see below). However, while a normal iO can be changed to a PP with the preposition to (He gave her a rose [​IMG] He gave a rose to her), this is not possible with delexical GIVE (*She gave a kick to the car / *Let's give a try to it).
  4. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'm still puzzled, mother earth.

    What is the point of the distinction you have found so easily?
  5. Cagey post mod

    English - US
    I'm wondering, too. Or maybe dycentra can tell us why it appeared to be useful.

    Meanwhile, here is the source of the description above. It seems to be an effort to categorize all(?) verbs according to their various relationships to prepositions and to objects.
  6. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Answering my own question following a bit more googling, I now understand that students have particular problems with these verbs because they take their meaning from the nouns they're collocated with: take a shower, have a drink, get a lift.

    Dycentra, maybe a good dictionary of collocations would help?

    << --- broken link. See post #9. --- >>
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 9, 2013
  7. dycentra Junior Member

    Canadian English
    Thank you both very much. My understanding of delexical verbs came from Collins which said that the actual verb had little or no meaning (hence, de-lexical) and that the underlying meaning was in the object, which is exactly what you explained, Mother Earth. I don't think they are collocations, though. My understanding of a collocation is two words that customarily go together; for example, we say "hard rock" and "soft rock" and "easy listening" but we don't say "easy rock". I have tried to Google "collocation" before without much luck but will take up your suggestions, thanks.
  8. laptopenglish New Member

    To go for a walk is not used in the same way as to walk. Again, English abounds in these so-called delexical verbs. In to take a photo, to have a bath, to do your homework, to give a shout, to make an impression etc., the actual verb is more or less meaningless, i.e., it is not lexical. Rather, the meaning is carried by the noun, while the phrase functions as verb. These are not difficult to learn: the difficulty lies in knowing when to use to photograph and when to use to take a photo.


    Chalker, S. (1992:76 ) A Student’s English Grammar Workbook uses the term Deverbal Nouns and has exercises.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 3, 2010
  9. Ashed New Member

    English - UK
    This is rather belated(!), but I think it's worth giving the reference h ttp://, where there is a clear, concise and yet detailed (and recent!) introduction to the topic.

    I think that some of the preceding confusion has resulted because of a skating about a far deeper issue: what exactly is meant by the term Direct Object in English; indeed, is there general agreement over what are and what are not DOs; and how can, for instance, noun groups following main verbs be rigorously and logically assigned DO status or otherwise.

    To illustrate the extent of the problem: at h ttp://"The+piano+seemed+an+antique"&source=bl&ots=GIzkhsTc2t&sig=RDZPoSf_OiKACjwMNnW3gEEtcIA&hl=en&ei are five example sentences, formally similar:

    (1) The piano damaged the carpet.

    (2) The piano resembled the pianola.

    (3) The piano weighed a ton.

    (4) The piano had a stool.

    (5) The piano seemed an antique.

    The article claims that only the first sentence contains a true Direct Object - the other post-verbal noun groups being classified differently.

    The article cites the does-the-sentence-passivise test as a possible diagnostic tool (only the first sentence passivises readily). Another test is the pronoun-substitution test:

    The piano damaged it.
    *The piano weighed it.

    Here, sentences 2 and (arguably) 4 would pass the DO test.

    (Contrast: They weighed anchor. *After they had weighed it, they set sail. with
    They weighed the anchor. After they had weighed it, they paid the full scrap-metal value.)
    It is claimed by some authorities that it is fairly futile to try to separate the words in such 'multi-word lexemes' into word-classes. This would then mean that a verbo-nominal collocation would not be analysable as verb + object. See Multi-word Verbs in Early Modern English, Claudia Claridge, for a history of analyses.

    When examining constructions employing delexical verbs, one hits bewildering inconsistencies:

    Each member of the team took a bath after the match.
    Each member of the team had a bath after the match.

    A bath was taken by each member of the team after the match.
    *A bath was had by each member of the team after the match.

    ?John took a bath. After he had taken it, he went to catch the bus. (This sounds unusual-to-ungrammatical to my UK ears.)
    John had a bath. After he had had it, he went to catch the bus.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 4, 2011

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