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I ordered a CD from an online music store. My confirmation email reads "your order has shipped." English is not my first language, and this strikes me as odd. Shouldn't it be a passive-voice sentence, i.e. "your order has been shipped"?

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The company's wording is fine. You might want to check out the sister site for English Language Learners; questions as basic as this one would be better received at that site. –  J.R. Mar 14 '13 at 11:50
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I would just like to point out that, even as a native English speaker, I have always found "your order has shipped" to sound a little odd. –  justinthrelkeld Mar 14 '13 at 12:30
    
I, also a native speaker, have never found it odd. It is just another example of the protean nature of English words. –  Robusto Mar 14 '13 at 12:33

1 Answer 1

I don't know why someone downvoted, 39 - I'm having quite a job finding corroboration in online dictionaries for the following.

Some verbs in English have a dual usage, where a transitive usage may be switched to an intransitive one, the direct object becoming the subject:

Bill closed the door - the door closed

Phil broke the window - the window broke

Jill cooked the ham - the ham cooked

Qwill melted the ice in a pan - the ice melted

Will sold his Monet - Will's Monet sold for over $12 million

Such a usage is called the ergative usage.

I'd distinguish this from the middle voice, a similar construction where a property of state rather than an action is being described:

Plastic windows break too easily.

Ice melts at 0 degrees C.

Battery-operated PIR alarms are selling for $12 at the hardware store.

I'm sure that the verb ship can be used ergatively, but it doesn't appear in Wikipedia's lengthy list ( http://en.wiktionary.org/w/index.php?title=Category:English_ergative_verbs&pagefrom=roast#mw-pages ), and the following is the only support I've found for my analysis:

ship: To go aboard a ship ... (AHDEL)

(obviously, to ship = to send by ship is a well-known transitive usage)

I'd add that the meaning of 'ship' (transitive) has been broadened to 'send by, or as if by, ship', and so that of 'ship' (intransitive) has followed, being broadened to 'be sent off'.

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