I'm wondering what it is called when a non-transitive verb is used as a transitive verb. An example would be if someone took the dog outside so it could defecate, and said,

I pooped the dog.

I know the term anthimeria refers to using one part of a speech as another. Wikipedia says that anthimeria...

involves using one part of speech as another part of speech, such as using a noun as if it were a verb: "The little old lady turtled along the road."

but it doesn't say whether the term applies to using a non-transitive verb as a transitive one. Although "poop" is also a noun, it is defined as a verb as well and is being used as a verb, so...

I pooped the dog

seems like it doesn't qualify as "anthimeria" by definition, but it's clearly a related linguistic phenomenon, so I assumed that there must be a term or explanation for this. However, searching online on Google and Wikipedia, I have not been able to find any analysis of that kind of switch.

  • Using a word in any new sense is called broadening. But until it's recognised as acceptable, it's unacceptable. Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 1:40
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    Thank you Edwin Ashworth. My understanding is that "broadening" refers to semantic shift in usage over a long period of time but "anthimeria" is a rhetorical, isolated use that is not reflective of a shift in the word's commonly accepted meaning -- the second is the kind of shift I'm curious about. Would this still be called broadening even in isolation, as if I said "I pooped the dog?"
    – Brrrrrrr
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 1:53
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    Why does it have to be acceptable, and to whom? I doubt Shakespeare waited for the queen to accept all his broadenings before his plays were performed? @Brrr it's fine to use English anyway you want. There is no acceptability committee, or if there is one I think I know the only member on it. Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 2:03
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    You'd have to eat the dog first, before you could poop it.
    – The Photon
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 5:35
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    @Clare of course nothing you say in English (or any other language for that matter) has to be "acceptable". However, if what you say is not readily understood by your audience, you have failed one of the primary goals of speaking or writing that language in the first place: to communicate your message.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 16:00

1 Answer 1


This is called transitivization, where an intransitive verb is turned around and made transitive. We're also making the subject the object.

This workshop paper from Ellenbas, Mondorf, et. al. at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium!) lists a lot of different transitivization types. They don't list an exact match of this one; the closest is the "pseudo-object as transitivizer".

Although new transitivizations such as "poop the dog" or "beep the car" are fun to talk about, there's a very common example staring you in the face. Walk is primarily an intransitive verb but no-one thinks that walk the dog is unusual. But this construction is relatively recent -- the earliest Google books result appears to be in a 1927 issue of The Dog Fancier:

Walk the dog on a loose leash then trot him. but never the gallop, for that means nothing; as a matter of fact it gives a lame dog a chance to cover up his weak action.

Notice that in this usage, "walk the dog" means to guide the dog to go at a certain gait, rather than to merely exercise it ( another one!) as we would use the construction today.

An example of gallop the horse appears in an 1826 issue of The American Farrier:

...if you oblige [the jockey] to gallop the horse, or fatigue him pretty much, (which is commonly done in order to try the creature's bottom), you will in all likelihood discover this defect [i.e., tottering legs]...

The earliest reference to shoeing a horse I can find is an 1871 US GPO book on (what else?) shoeing horses, by John Kiernan.

People can be the object as well as animals:

After Georgie threw erasers out of the classroom window, his teacher marched him straight to the principal's office.

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