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Agent is a generalized semantic or thematic role. The agent of an event is the entity that brings about an event and has control over it.

The Agent role has a 'privileged' status in many languages. In accusative languages, it is typically encoded as a subject (in the nominative case); in ergative languages, it is associated with a special case, the ergative. Irrespective of the alignment system of a language, the Agent role is plays a crucial role in various syntactic constructions, e.g. specific types of control structures and imperatives.


In the following examples Miguel is the Agent:

  1. Miguel chased Gianni.
  2. Miguel gave Pedro some water.
  3. Pedro was hit by Miguel. (passive voice)

Other languages


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Grimshaw, J. 1990. Argument Structure, MIT-press, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Gruber, J. 1965. Studies in lexical relations, doctoral dissertation, MIT
  • Jackendoff, R. 1990. Semantic Structures, Cambridge, MIT-Press.
  • Jackendoff, R. 1972. Semantic interpretation in generative grammar, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.