Causative verb

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A causative verb is a verb with an argument that expresses the cause of the action described by the verb.


In (i)-(iii) let, make, and cause are causative verbs; John refers to the cause of Bill's eating grass.

(i)   John let Bill eat grass
(ii)  John made Bill eat grass
(iii) John caused Bill to eat grass


A certain class of verbs alternate between a causative reading and an inchoative reading. Examples are break, drown and De-adjectival verbs formed with the suffix -en in (iv) - (vii).

(iv)  The vase broke		John broke the vase
(v)   The lady drowned		Our tenant drowned a lady
(vi)  The canal widened	        They widened the canal
(vii) The tomatoes reddened	The sun reddened the tomatoes


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Borer, H. 1990. Derived nominals and the causative-inchoative alternation: two case studies in parallel morphology. Ms. UC Irvine.
  • Grimshaw, J. 1990. Argument Structure. Cambridge, Mass: MIT-press.
  • Jackendoff, R. 1990. Semantic Structures. Cambridge: MIT-Press.