No one can replace your mama.

keramus

Senior Member
Persian
Hello everyone

According to Cambridge dictionary, "replace" is a transitive verb. Yesterday I saw the new trailer of "Poldark".
Untitled.png
The man said to his son:
No one can replace your mama.
(He means no one can take your mama's place.)
Please tell me your opinion.

Is "replace" just a transitive verb?
 
  • Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I don't understand. You seem to be suggesting that in the Poldark example the verb is being used intransitively.
    But this is normal transitive use. Its object is "your mama".
     

    keramus

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Thank you.
    So, we can't use "replace" intransitively.
    Money never replaces happiness.
    Is the above sentence wrong?
     

    billj

    Senior Member
    British English
    A transitive verb/clause is defined as one that has a direct object. The noun phrases "your mama" and "happiness" are direct objects of "replace", thus the latter is a transitive verb in both your examples. I'm not aware of an established use for "replace" as an intransitive verb.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    If you want to turn "replace" intransitive, put it in a passive clause, where "replace" appears in its past participle form:

    She can't be replaced.

    Syntactically
    , "replaced" doesn't have an object (it's not followed by a noun phrase), but logically it's understood that we are talking about the person.

    Otherwise, "replace" is transitive.
     

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    SevenDays, you must have learned a system of describing verb use that is different from the one I learned.

    Changing a sentence from active to passive does not change the verb from transitive to intransitive.
    - No one can replace your mother. (active transitive)
    - Your mother cannot be replaced by anyone.

    As this website puts it, "In the passive voice, all verbs are transitive."
    In the Passive Voice, All Verbs are Transitive
    Or, to put it another way, intransitive verbs do not have a passive form. Only transitive verbs can be used in the passive voice.
     

    billj

    Senior Member
    British English
    Changing a sentence from active to passive does not change the verb from transitive to intransitive.
    Yes it does. Compare

    [1] Pat stole my surfboard. [active]

    [2] My surfboard was stolen by Pat. [passive]

    The effect of switching from the active [1] to the passive [2] is to switch from a transitive clause to an intransitive one. Note that a transitive verb/clause is one that has a direct object. The direct object in [1] appears as the subject in the passive [2].
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree with the others.
    Yes it does. Compare

    [1] Pat stole my surfboard. [active]

    [2] My surfboard was stolen by Pat. [passive]

    The effect of switching from the active [1] to the passive [2] is to switch from a transitive clause to an intransitive one. Note that a transitive verb/clause is one that has a direct object. The direct object in [1] appears as the subject in the passive [2].
    This may or may not be true. However this discussion is not relevant to the OP's question.

    The OP's sentence is active, "No one can replace your mama."

    keramus - "Replace" is always transitive when it is active as in your sentence. We replace <direct object> with <optional indirect object>.

    Example: "He replaced his old pen (direct object) with a new one (indirect object)."
     

    billj

    Senior Member
    British English
    I agree with the others.

    This may or may not be true. However this discussion is not relevant to the OP's question.

    The OP's sentence is active, "No one can replace your mama."

    keramus - "Replace" is always transitive when it is active as in your sentence. We replace <direct object> with <optional indirect object>.

    Example: "He replaced his old pen (direct object) with a new one (indirect object)."
    It was a reply to Hildy1's point, which is relevant because it concerns whether "replace" in a passive clause is transitive or intransitive.

    What is irrelevant is your comment about indirect objects.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    [1] Pat stole my surfboard. [active]

    [2] My surfboard was stolen by Pat. [passive]

    The effect of switching from the active [1] to the passive [2] is to switch from a transitive clause to an intransitive one.
    No. You are incorrectly using "transitive verb". A verb does not "become intransitive" in a passive sentence. In fact, only transitive verbs can be used in a passive sentence. That is because the direct object of the verb (in an active sentence) becomes the subject (in the passive sentence). Only transitive verbs have a direct object (in an active sentence).

    Here is an intransitive verb: "Harold laughed."
    What is the passive form of this sentence? There isn't one.

    Language experts call these "active voice" and "passive voice". So example [2] above uses the transitive verb "steal" in passive voice, past tense.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    SevenDays, you must have learned a system of describing verb use that is different from the one I learned.

    Changing a sentence from active to passive does not change the verb from transitive to intransitive.
    - No one can replace your mother. (active transitive)
    - Your mother cannot be replaced by anyone.

    As this website puts it, "In the passive voice, all verbs are transitive."
    In the Passive Voice, All Verbs are Transitive
    Or, to put it another way, intransitive verbs do not have a passive form. Only transitive verbs can be used in the passive voice.
    All that transitive means is that the verb takes a noun phrase as "direct object." In No one can replace your mother, "replace" is transitive as it has the noun phrase "your mother" as direct object; however, in Your mother cannot be replaced by anyone, there's no longer a noun phrase functioning as direct object ("by anyone" is a prepositional phrase), so it makes no sense to call "replaced" transitive. Accordingly, the web site errs in saying that "In the passive voice, all verbs are transitive." Passive voice involves transformation; the active sentence becomes passive, meaning that the structure of the sentence changes. As a result of this transformation, the direct object of the active sentence ("your mother") becomes the subject of the passive sentence, a different grammatical function altogether. If there is no direct object/noun phrase in the passive sentence, then there is no transitive verb.

    The larger point here is that transitivity is not a feature of verbs. In actuality, transitivity is a feature of clauses; in our example, the active clause is transitive (there is a noun phrase after the verb), while the passive clause isn't. (In some languages, this is not an issue, because "transitivity" is morphologically marked; that is, the verbs themselves carry suffixes that signal "transitive.")

    Some modern grammars talk about "arguments" rather than "objects." Argument refers to syntactic elements that complete the contextual meaning of the verb. The advantage of the "argument" label is that it incorporates noun phrases as well as prepositional phrases. Thus, the verb "replace" has two arguments, regardless of the clause (active or passive) in which the verb appears:

    No one can replace your mother
    two arguments, both noun phrases: "No one" and "your mother"

    Your mother cannot be replaced by anyone
    two arguments, a noun phrase ("your mother") and a prepositional phrase ("by anyone").

    In argument structure,


     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    All that transitive means is that the verb takes a noun phrase as "direct object."
    The larger point here is that transitivity is not a feature of verbs.
    I disagree with both statements. You can create your own grammar (with your own definitions of terms like "transitivity") but that is not how the term is used in the grammars that I use.

    The WR dictionary defines "transitive (grammar)" as "of or relating to a verb that takes a direct object and from which a passive can be formed".

    So if you can use a verb in a passive clause, then it is a "transitive verb".
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I disagree with both statements.
    So do I. But...
    You can create your own grammar (with your own definitions of terms like "transitivity")
    Well, that is in effect what modern linguists like to do. Their understanding about features of language that we broadly refer to as grammar has been evolving in directions that take it away from established traditional understandings. Such change is in the nature of evolution. Whether that is for the better remains to be seen. Certainly the understanding that transitivity is a property of verbs is one that has been held for a very long time and across different languages.

    But does it really matter? If one takes the view that transitivity is a property of uses of verbs, then to say that in the sentence
    No-one can replace your mama.
    the verb replace takes the direct object your mama and that therefore this use of the verb is transitive, this is equivalent to saying that replace is transitive in this context.
    Traditional grammar calls a verb transitive when it "is transitive" in all possible contexts, or must always take a direct object, and calls it intransitive when it can never do so. Of course some verbs can optionally take a direct object. Traditional grammar does not have a problem with that and copes with it by saying that a verb can be both transitive and intransitive, just as a person can be bisexual. It is easy to see why such ambitransitive verbs have led to the thinking that transitivity is really less an inherent property of a verb and more of how it is used.

    At the end of the day this battle is futile, and in any case this thread is almost certainly not the place for it.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Moderator note

    I have, I think, deleted all those posts which had digressed into a general discussion of how you do or don't define a transitive verb. Some people find discussion of the terminology used by modern grammars an interesting topic, but this thread isn't the place for it. Please confine any further answers to the specific question/example which was originally asked. Thanks. DonnyB - moderator.
     
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