I've realized many verbs follow an interesting transitive pattern, which I illustrate with an example:

Webster's defines wrangle as either intransitive dispute, argue or transitive to obtain by persistent arguing.

Is there a grammar term for this behavior?

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    Could you give example sentences for both usages of 'wrangle' and for both usages of 3 or 4 other verbs exhibiting this behaviour, GLC? The first two T/I verbs I've thought of (teach // teach a class/a lesson/history //// play // play a game) don't fit into the 'goal attained' pattern. Aug 13, 2019 at 16:24
  • @EdwinAshworth They wrangled (over) a commitment to peace out of the opposing side, where the prep over makes the verb intransitive
    – GJC
    Aug 13, 2019 at 16:28
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    Yes (They wrangled over a commitment to peace with the opposing side / They wrangled a commitment to peace out of the opposing side). Others? Aug 13, 2019 at 16:30
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    @EdwinAshworth They wrangled for hours to achieve a commitment to peace
    – GJC
    Aug 13, 2019 at 17:49
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    @Zebrafish Though there are those here on ELU who will come out with a virtually papal decree on this, I've come across various analyses / labellings by various grammarians. Aarts is perhaps the one who has done the most research on this, though I believe he's changed his stance in recent years. You can look up "direct object" here for previous discussions, though "the piano had a stool" might be a more fruitful string to search for. Aug 13, 2019 at 18:21

1 Answer 1


I don't know if there's a single term, but you're certainly not the first person to notice this phenomenon. Huddleston & Pullum (2002) have this to say in their discussion of transitive/intransitive contrasts (p. 304):

With a considerable number of verbs the intransitive construction is characteristically used for an activity and the transitive one for an accomplishment. This is so, for example, with I ironed vs I ironed your shirt, We read vs We read the report, and so on.

In their terminology, an accomplishment, unlike an activity, has "inherent terminal point" (p. 120); note that neither term necessarily denotes something done by a human (or even an animate) being.

In "We read the report," the reading of the report has a defined endpoint, the point at which the whole report has been read. In "We read" (past tense), though, the amount being read is unspecified and there is no fixed endpoint.

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