What is a factitive verb?
Factitive verbs are used to indicate the resulting condition or state (known as the object complement) of a person, place, or thing (the direct object) caused by the action of the verb. Examples of factitive verbs include elect, appoint, make, choose, deem, assign, name, select, judge, and designate. Here are some examples of factitive verbs used in sentences:
- “The populace elected him president of the United States.”
- “The committee named Mr. Fuller chairman of the board.”
- “The jury judged the defendant not guilty.”
- “She deemed him a person of high quality.”
- “The group designated Marshall leader from then on.”
- “The coach made Timothy point guard.”
Direct Objects and Object Complements
Factitive verbs have both direct objects and object complements. Direct objects are phrases, clauses, nouns, and pronouns that directly receive the action of the verb.
Object complements are adjectives, nouns, or pronouns that follow direct objects in order to indicate what the direct object's new state is. In other words, object complements reveal what the direct object has become.
Factitive verbs always indicate that the direct object has been changed or placed into a new condition, state, or category as indicated by the object complement.
To understand this concept, consider the following sentence:
- “The company appointed the most experienced employee manager.”
In this sentence, appointed is the factitive verb, the most experienced employee is the direct object, and manager is the object complement. Appointed is a factitive verb because it indicates that someone is having his or her status changed. The most experienced employee is the direct object because he or she is receiving the action of the verb, while manager is the object complement because it indicates what the direct object has become.
Here is another example:
- “The team made the star quarterback the new captain.”
In this sentence, made is a factitive verb acting directly upon the star quarterback, its direct object. The new captain is the object complement, indicating what the star quarterback was designated as.
Role in sentences
Factitive verbs serve the purpose of helping to answer the question of how a person, place, or thing was changed. For example, consider the following sentence, which does not have a factitive verb:
- “The school hired Mrs. McMillian principal.”
In this sentence, the verb hired is not sufficient to convey all of the intended information. However, the following sentence uses a factitive verb to make it clear:
- “The school appointed Mrs. McMillian principal.”
By changing hired to the factitive verb appointed, it becomes clear that Mrs. McMillian (the direct object) was made principal. Thus, the factitive verb appointed successfully serves its role in the sentence. Let's look at two more comparisons to help illustrate this concept:
- “The organization named Brad Ryan chief executive officer.” (factitive)
- “The organization brought in Brad Ryan chief executive officer.” (non-factitive)
The addition of a factitive verb reveals the status or characteristic being given to someone or something. In this case, Brad Ryan is being given the status of chief executive officer. The non-factitive verb brought in does not indicate this change at all, so the meaning of the sentence becomes incomplete or obscure.
- “The builder made the house more modern.” (factitive)
- “The builder constructed the house more modern.” (non-factitive)
Once again, the non-factitive verb constructed describes a straightforward action, and so is unsuited to indicating a categorical change in something. By using made, we can clearly see the intended relationship between the direct object, house, and the object complement, more modern.
Difference from linking and causative verbs
Factitive verbs are similar to linking and causative verbs. However, there are some important differences.
Linking verbs link a subject to a noun or adjective that describes it. Linking verbs include words such as appear, seem, and become, as well as various forms of be. For example:
- “She appears cold.”
- “He is a very tall man.”
- “The group seems interested in the discussion”
Linking verbs and factitive verbs both tie a subject to another part of speech that provides more information about it. However, unlike factitive verbs, linking verbs do not reveal that a person, place, or thing is being made, named, or deemed something else. Instead, they only add information about the subject as it already exists.
Causative verbs require that another action be mentioned in the sentence, thus forcing the sentence to have at least one other verb. Enable, cause, have, force, let, keep, hold, and require are all examples of causative verbs. Here are some examples of causative verbs being used in sentences:
- “She was required to bring a pen and paper to her physics class.”
- “His mom let him go sledding on his snow day.”
- “The parents forced their child to tie his shoes.”
Like linking verbs, causative verbs also tie a subject to other parts of the sentence that reveal more about the subject. In this way, they serve a similar function to factitive verbs. However, unlike factitive verbs, causative verbs simply cause another action to be described in the sentence. They do not describe a change in the subject’s category, status, or characteristics like factitive verbs do.
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