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I am currently spending some time creating a (partial) Liferay translation for the Greek language, and I came upon this original English message text:

Your request processed successfully.

Can the verb "process" be used intransitively in this manner? Or would this be the correct form?

Your request was processed successfully.

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Wiktionary lists only the transitive meaning (except in an unrelated sense). Intransitive looks odd to me. –  Mechanical snail Dec 22 '12 at 23:07
    
@Mechanicalsnail: at least a couple of online dictionaries that I have looked at seem to agree that there is no intransitive form of this verb. And, yes, the intransitive usage does seem odd... –  thkala Dec 22 '12 at 23:08
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3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Process is an intransitive verb, but it means "walk in procession". Clergy and ministers process into a church service. It's pronounced differently, with the stress on the second syllable.

ODO doesn't allow process not to have an object, in the sense which is meant in your quote:

verb
[with object]
      perform a series of mechanical or chemical operations on (something) in order to change or preserve it:
      the salmon is quickly processed after harvest to preserve the flavour
        * deal with (someone or something) using an official procedure:
            the immigration authorities who processed him
        * Computing operate on (data) by means of a program.

However, it is also fairly common for computer output messages to omit the verb, headline-style; or to use jargon.

In the quoted message, it is clear what is meant: the request went through the process. But this use is jargon.

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I think that a message along the lines of "request process complete" would be jargon. That message just seems like a mistake to me - and it is not the first one that I have encountered. I guess I will be correcting more than just the Greek language files... –  thkala Dec 22 '12 at 23:16
    
No, "request process complete" means the process [noun] is complete. Processed as an intransitive verb means went through the process. It's not a mistake. –  Andrew Leach Dec 22 '12 at 23:20
    
Agreed, your request processed successfully is technical vocabulary (aka jargon). But it's stressed on the first syllable. That's the important part. –  John Lawler Dec 23 '12 at 0:44
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You can just about get away with such usage - as evidenced by the fact that maybe 100 writers have felt it was okay to write not process correctly in contexts where it's almost always being used to mean not be processed correctly.

Some people will say it's "technical jargon", but given the increasing number of contexts where we need to speak of things being processed [by admin/computer systems, etc.], I think it's a safe bet this usage will become increasingly common with each passing year. Even today, I wouldn't expect many people to seriously contend that it was "incorrect". I certainly don't.

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The sentence

Your sentence processed successfully.

is a grammatical sentence. It contains an example of a derived intransitive verb: a verb used intransitively, but whose meaning is derived from the meaning of a basic transitive sense of the same verb. In this case, the change in transitivity is used to indicate what is usually called the middle voice.

The middle voice construction uses a transitive verb as if it were intransitive, with the intransitive subject corresponding to the object of the original transitive verb. It has a meaning similar to the passive voice. The process is quite common in English, and extends to a good number of verbs, though somewhat restricted in meaning. Verbs which participate in the middle voice construction are typically those whose meaning is more specific as to what the object is.
Some examples:

This cloth cuts easily.
This cloth folds easily.
Phenol and formaldehyde polymerize readily.
Bananas peel easily.
The program wouldn't run.
The script compiled successfully.

Other languages have a specific word-form for middle voice forms of a verb.

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