As a non-English speaker, it's sometimes hard to determine what style of a verb is meant in sentences written/said by native speakers of English.

For example, there are ergative verbs in English. My question is how to determine a given verb in a sentence is an ergative verb or not? Should I match it with a list of those ergative verbs? Is there such a list?

As an instance, is evaluate an ergative verb?

  • @Lawrence I think OP has in mind the difference between "You evaluate the formula as X" and "The formula evaluates to X". – StoneyB May 21 '16 at 11:09
  • This is general reference, possibly ELL fodder, but no, 'evaluate' is not an intransitive verb and so cannot be ergative. Ergative verbs can be used both transitively and intransitively; the same noun can be used as the direct object of the former (transitive) and the subject of the latter (intransitive) with equivalent meaning: "You evaluate X" doesn't mean the same thing as "X evaluates". – JEL May 21 '16 at 11:35
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    @JEL: the meanings are almost the same, so I think calling evaluate ergative in this sense is perfectly reasonable. Why don't you think the meaning isn't the same? – Peter Shor May 21 '16 at 11:48
  • What @Peter said. I don't have any real problem with Tom's algorithm evaluates easily with integer arguments, OR Dick evaluates Tom's algorithm easily with integer arguments, and it seems to me that fits the definition of "ergative verb". Come to that, much the same principle applies to You can't compute function X vs Function X does not compute, or You can sort this table easily vs This table sorts easily. – FumbleFingers May 21 '16 at 12:31
  • ...per Peter's comment some years ago contrasting He ran the restaurant well and The restaurant ran well, with a bit of "give and take" you can make a case for an awful lot of verbs being "ergative" (to the extent that it's a useful classification at all). – FumbleFingers May 21 '16 at 12:36

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