Ambitransitive verb

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An ambitransitive verb is a verb which can be used either as a transitive verb or intransitive verb without any morphological marking of its valence alternation.

Semantic groups

The main semantic groups of verbs which tend to be labile cross-linguistically are:

1. motion verbs
2. destruction verbs
3. phasal verbs (Bulgarian zapochvam 'begin')
4. sound emission verbs (Russian igrat' 'play', Bulgarian svirja 'play', German spielen 'play', French sonner 'sound, play')



1) Malcolm is reading a book. (read is transitive)
2) Malcolm is reading. (read is intransitive)


S/A aligned ambitransitive verbs


3) Inge liest ein Buch. || (transitive lesen has A and P)
 ‘Inge is reading a book.’ 
4) Inge liest || (intransitive lesen has an agent-like S)
‘Inge is reading.’ ||
5) *Ein Buch liest. || (intransitive lesen cannot take a patient-like S)
 *‘A book is reading.’ ||

S/P aligned ambitransitive verbs


6) Carl opens the door. (transitive open has A and P)
7) The door opens. (intransitive open has a patient-like S)
8) Carl opens. (intransitive open cannot have an agent-like' S)

Unaligned ambitransitive verbs


9) Dietlind kocht eine Suppe. || (transitive kochen has A and P)
‘Dietlind is cooking a soup.’ ||
10) Dietlind kocht. || (intransitive kochen can have an agent-like S)
‘Dietlind is cooking (something).’ ||
11) Die Suppe kocht. || (intransitive kochen can have a patient-like S)
‘The soup is being cooked (by somebody).’ ||