I'm translating two poems into English and I have two questions -- hopefully someone will be able to help me with them...

First, I needed to know whether I can simply use "See!" as a sentence (imperative). I tried to do my own research, but it's hard to google this because google does not read punctuation. I know I can say "Look!" or "See??", but could I say "See!" in English? (In Portuguese we can say that even though the correspondent verb is transitive).

Second, I needed to know if I could use the verb 'defeat' as intransitive even though it is transitive. I need to say something along the lines of "the light that kills" (a luz que mata) but it hardly sounds poetic like that and I managed to work around the rest of the poem so as it would rhyme with "defeats" (light that defeats). Does that sound alien to native ears? I usually have a good ear for matters related to the English language, but, when it comes to poetry, it is hard for me to draw the line because so much of what I read in poetry sounds weird to me anyway (in Engl or Port)... Can anyone help me with that?


You can use almost any verb as an imperative. "Look!" "Eat!" "Drink!" "Drive!" "Die!"

While it would be grammatically possible to use "Hear!" as an imperative, it is difficult to obey that without actually listening, so "Listen!" is more usual. And it's difficult to think of a valid application for "Be!"

"See!" is the modern equivalent to "Behold!" and is more poetic than just "Look!" As an imperative it has a slightly different meaning which is not easy to distinguish. Take a line from a fairly well-known hymn and see which modernisation works better (Did you see, I used see as an imperative there).

Lo, he comes with clouds descending

Look! He comes with clouds descending
See! He comes with clouds descending

There's nothing wrong with light that defeats, just as there is nothing wrong with using the transitive verb kills. In both cases the object is either implied from the context or understood to be non-specific and general.

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  • I would think that "the light that defeats" sounds very strange and am left wondering what it means. Defeats what? – TrevorD Jul 20 '13 at 12:14
  • @TrevorD Darkness, perhaps. It depends on the context, but as a general principle a transitive verb can have an implied object. – Andrew Leach Jul 20 '13 at 12:38
  • Yes, I wasn't disagreeing with you on the grammar, but merely commenting on OP's choice of word. I hadn't thought of darkness, but since all light "defeats darkness", it still sounds odd to me to say "the light that defeats darkness" as if implying that only a particular type/source of light does that. – TrevorD Jul 20 '13 at 13:08
  • I really appreciate your answer. The hymn was very helpful and the explanation of how 'see' relates to 'behold' as well. I will use it then. In relation to the second matter, I am aware I could use 'kill' (the light that kills) but it just doesn't sound very good to me in the poem, but maybe that is just me anyway... thanks a lot – user48145 Jul 21 '13 at 1:56

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