I can think of only a few verbs like exist and belong that never take ordinary nouns as object complements. (see below)

We never say things like, *She exists a doctor. Rather, we would say, She exists as a doctor (S+V+pp)

However, we might see an infinitive functioning as an object complement as in, "She exists to heal others". She exists to do something - to heal functions as an object complement. But the infinitive is also quite verbal and could be understood as a clause - she exists, so she can heal others. This is not really about existence per se, but rather the purpose of her existence, and hence this complement phrase really produces a different meaning for the verb. We could simply say, She exists because exist does not require a complement to have complete meaning.

Belong is a little different because it is incomplete, particularly in a bare sentence. Without sufficient context, say, in answer to the question, 'do you belong?' we would rarely if ever just say, 'I belong.' Nor would we say, 'it belongs.' We normally complement this verb with a prepositional phrase or adverb phrase. I belong here, it belongs there, she belongs to the club, it belongs to him, and so on. And we never say things like, the wallet belongs me, or I belong club.

So, back to the original thought, are there any other verbs in English that never take an ordinary noun as a complement, and is there a term for such words?

Here are a few other candidates:

  • look
  • sit
  • fall
  • live
  • venture
  • happen
  • occur
  • smile
  • 6
    I think the word you're looking for is intransitive verbs. And there are many more than two. – Robusto Aug 9 '18 at 11:17
  • 1
    How about "laugh", "smile", "occur" and dozens more? – WS2 Aug 9 '18 at 11:25
  • 1
    @Ubu: Well, verb only identifies how it functions in a sentence, for that matter. So now I have no idea what "property" you're talking about. – Robusto Aug 11 '18 at 12:19
  • 1
    @UbuEnglish I was tempted to say "an occurrence". But then that would be the subject wouldn't it? "An occurrence occurred..." "Occur" is like "happen". I see no possibility of a direct object. – WS2 Aug 11 '18 at 14:33
  • 3
    We never say things like, “She exists a doctor.” Rather, we would say, “She exists as a doctor.” Well, I've never heard anyone say the latter either. Have you heard anyone say She works and lives a doctor? In answer to the question "Do you belong?" You could simply reply "Yes" or "No". I see nothing inherently wrong with the statement "I belong", said by a person who embraces the universe and the feeling of oneness with nature, it can stand alone. – Mari-Lou A Aug 15 '18 at 6:37

Your Answer

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

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.