Sorry, I'm not sure the best way to describe this, but hopefully you understand what I mean. Something like the result of the verb(to say) and any adverb(insultingly) = verb(to insult).

Another way of putting it: to "insult someone" is an example of what?

Examples: To compliment, to question, to inspire, to insult, to demean, to be sarcastic, etc.

Again, I'm wondering if there is a word or term that describes words such as these. The best I can think of is "methods of conversation" but that's vague.

  • With respect to governed syntactic alternations, most of these verbs would fall into classes 31.1 ("amuse" verbs) through 33.1 (negative judgement verbs) in Levin's English Verb Classes and Alternations. The verb list is available here. May 31 '14 at 16:43
  • I think that on average, new words tend to be adopted into English as nouns before being used as verbs, so perhaps what we're talking about here is verbified nouns (since presumably "adverbification" has to be a later phase in that process). May 31 '14 at 17:09
  • @JohnLawler Yeah, those are the kind of verbs I was talking about, mostly the judgement verbs. Is that the widespread term for them?
    – scorkla
    May 31 '14 at 17:54
  • @FumbleFingers Interesting. I'm looking more for "verbified adverbs" or "adverbified verbs". I'm guessing neither of those are an actual thing? :D
    – scorkla
    May 31 '14 at 17:54
  • @scorkla: I'd have no problem with being told that amusingly, for example, is an "adverbified verb" derived from to amuse, but I've no idea if any categorisation system actually endorses that term. On the other hand, "verbified adverb" seems an unlikely designation to me, since presumably the adverb came from a verb which still exists - so you wouldn't actually "re-derive" it. Jun 1 '14 at 12:23

As far as I understand the original question, you are not asking for the type of grammatical analysis that has so far been offered! It seems to me that your question is not about syntax but about verbs that have a particular purpose, right? The clue is in your guess that "to insult someone" would be categorized as a "method of conversation" and in your other guess that your group of examples would be "judging verbs".

So going on from there, I tried to think of other examples based on some of the other verbs you listed i.e. in what type of conversation would one "question someone": perhaps in an interrogation; in what type of conversation would one "compliment someone": perhaps in a review. OK, so what overall category would such "judging verbs" rightly be put in?

I did a bit of research on terms such as "assessing verbs" and "qualifying verbs" and in the end, settled on qualify. My first conclusion was that there isn't an exact accepted term in use for what you are getting at, but that it would be clearly understood if you grouped such phrases under the umbrella "qualifying verbs". Definition number 2 of "qualify" in the Cambridge Dictionary reads as follows: "specialized language. In grammar a word or phrase that qualifies another word or phrase limits its meaning and makes it less general."

Hmmmm. Then I felt dissatisfied with this answer and started looking more deeply into "verbs that evaluate", which seemed closer to what you were getting at. I found four links to offer that may be of interest to you, but the site will only let me post two so I will have to cheat the system, or you could just skip to the end if you're not interested in my process of discovery. The first link was an "action verb list for writing student outcomes" from Potsdam dot edu and I am sure you could find it if you looked it up like that. The last column is headed "evaluation" and I think that all of the verb examples you used either are in that column, or could be added to it correctly.

The next link, interestingly enough, came from the UN, and gave instructions on the correct way to reply to resolutions, in order to indicate whether you condone, oppose, or want to comment about or correct a resolution. It suggests a list of words that could begin what it calls "operative clauses". I see no reason why the verbs themselves should not therefore be called "operative verbs" and of course, there is just such a category of verbs. If you want to see this page from the UNAUSA dot org site, then search for that link plus "how to participate" plus "preambulatory and operative clauses" (phrases in quotes for better accuracy).

Emboldened by this discovery I went on to look up more information on "operative verbs" and found this interesting teacher's document from a British academy that lists a selection of operative verbs to be used when grading a paper.


So I suppose it could be said that you are talking about operative verbs that evaluate.

I became a bit frustrated by my Internet search because I found over and over again, tantalizing hints that as many as 85 classes of verbs have been identified (Beth Levin, linguist, 1993) but kept coming up against the same 4 or 5 (transitive, intransitive) on grammar and English sites, and that seemed to focus more on the syntax than the type of verb in terms of its meaning or purpose in the sentence.

But finally I came across this scholarly article about "lexical classifications" which focuses on Levin's system and does indeed group verbs together based upon some kind of shared meaning. I would say that your question refers to lexical rather than syntactical classifications.

So for example, verbs that have to do with traveling or motion would have their own class designation, while "break verbs" would all pertain to some change in the material integrity of an object or entity. This seems to be exactly the type of specificity you are looking for. I will admit I could not be bothered to read the entire 20 page paper in order to completely answer your question, fascinating though all of this is, but here is the link to the pdf. If the answer is not in there then I would suggest getting Levin's book "English Verb Classes and Alternations". Contrary to my first conclusion, there probably is, indeed, an exact term for what you are trying to pinpoint!


Good luck!


From what I gather, you're asking what the term is for verbs constructed by another verb + adverb. Since an adverb is just a way to describe a verb (or noun/adjective/other adverb), technically any "descriptive" sounding or specific verb can fit into this definition.

This link describes some verbs that fit your definition. The opposite of what you're looking for is what the link calls a "talkie" verb, which is one that we use often in every day conversation e.g. do, make, say. By adding specificity to the verb (i.e. the adverb), you get verbs that can indicate underlying sentiment in addition to other things.


Disclaimer: I'm not a linguist nor grammarian.

I came across this Wiki article during my research for an answer. It mentions "attributive verbs", which seem to me like verbs that can be used (with some modifications) in certain situations to act as so-called attributive adjectives to a noun. This doesn't quite match what you're describing, which are verbs that has a corresponding adjective that describes similar sentiments.

An attributive verb is a verb that modifies (expresses an attribute of) a noun in the manner of an attributive adjective, rather than express an independent idea as a predicate.

Attributive adjectives are part of the noun phrase headed by the noun they modify; for example, happy is an attributive adjective in "happy people".

Examples of attributive verbs (bold): The cat sitting on the fence is mine. The actor given the prize is not my favorite. This is a great place to eat.

However, the Wiki article also mentions "deverbal adjectives", which I think refer to adjectives that stem from a verb (like "insulting" from "insult"). This about.com article gives "deverbal (n)" to mean "a word (usually a noun or an adjective) that is derived from a verb." This gives rise to the adjective "deverbative" to describe such a noun/adjective.

I still can't seem to find a precise word to describe those words that a noun/adjective can be derived from (which I think is what you want). The best that I could come up with for now is "deverbativable" but it's not a real word (Google results = 0).


The question asks, "....verb which indicates the underlying sentiment." As a group such verbs imply something. Therefore, I would suggest that they be implicative verbs. This leaves the reader or listener infer their tone. The current widespread improper use of this coordinated pair, infer and imply, is perhaps the reason this answer has not yet been put forth.

I'm not a linguist nor a native speaker.


I'm also a little unclear as to what you're asking, I'm afraid. Maybe what you're aiming for is revealing or the verb reveals

The insult revealed his true character.

The revealing insult...


I wonder if this is just a matter of rethinking your original question. In your example, you ask, "to 'insult someone' is an example of what?" Grammatically speaking, this is simply the standard use of the transitive form of "insult." One couldn't say anything insultingly if the transitive "to insult" didn't exist. Nor could one "ask accusingly" without "to accuse" or act subversively without "to subvert" and so on.

To me, this seems to be more a question of the writer's voice, or his/her economy of words. It would be more efficient to simply insult someone, than it would to say something insultingly. Simply put, the term you are seeking might just be "poor word choice."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.