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Transitive verbs

Transitive verbs in Afrikaans take two nominal arguments, the subject and the direct object, which can be considered the external argument and internal argument of the verb respectively. Like the case is with intransitives, the subject of the transitive verb in the prototypical case performs the role of agent, while the direct object is a theme, as illustrated by example (1). The agent is typically human, and can also be animate, while the object is inanimate in the prototypical case, but animate objects are not uncommon. By extension, the (inanimate) cause of the verb can also be used as subject, as illustrated by example (2). If the direct object is omitted from the transitive construction, the result is ungrammatical, as the primed examples below illustrate.

a. Sy halveer die pere.
She halves the pears.
a.' *Sy halveer.
She halves.
b. Die hond verorber sy kos.
The dog devours its food.
b.' *Die hond verorber.
The dog devours.
a. Die golwe tref die sandkasteel.
The waves hit the sand castle.
a.' *Die golwe tref.
The waves hit.

The verb of a transitive clause typically denotes an atelic activity involving a second participant, as illustrated in (3), an accomplishment where the object typically enumerates the goal of the activity, as illustrated by (4), or an achievement, as illustrated by (5).

Johanita speel die klavier.
Johanita plays piano.
Johanita speel die Maanligsonata.
Johanita plays the Moonlight Sonata.
Die bomontploffing vernietig die lughawe se aankomssaal.
The bomb explosion destroys the arrivals hall of the airport.

Transitive verbs differ from ditransitive verbs because the latter has a second internal argument, typically the receiver, which the regular transitive verbs do not have. Transitive verbs also differ from dyadic unaccusative verbs, because the later do not have an external argument like and agent or cause, but two internal arguments, typically a theme and an experiencer.

[+]Omission of the object with pseudo-intransitive verbs

Transitive verbs require a direct object, but some normally transitive verbs allow the omission of the overt object, rendering them pseudo-intransitive in such cases. The object is implicit and very general when it is not spelled out overtly, and the overall clause receives a habitual or occupational reading, as illustrated by the contrast between the (a) and (b) examples of (6) and (7).

a. Elza kook aartappels in water.
Elza boils potatoes in water.
[Transitive use]
b. Elza kook graag met wyn.
Elza enjoys cooking with wine.
[Pseudo-transitive with habitual reading]
a. Richard Cock dirigeer vanaand die Chanticleer Singers.
Richard Cock directs the Chanticleer Singers tonight.
[Transitive use]
b. Richard Cock dirigeer al sedert 1980.
Richard Cock has been directing since 1980.
[Pseudo-transitive with occupational reading]
[+]Direct objects marked by vir for

Afrikaans optionally marks the direct object with the preposition vir for. This is especially likely with human referents and names of pets or even places. Among human referents, the use of vir with personal names is most likely, while the combination with pronouns also more likely than with noun phrases headed by common nouns. Semantically, the addition of vir often conveys affect towards the object, but such affect may permeate the entire clause. Some examples are provided in (8), while more discussion can be found in the section on accusative PP alternations and in Ponelis (1979:202-206).

a. Sien jy (vir) Frikkie êrens?
Do you see Frikkie somewhere?
(Ponelis 1979:202)
b. Was (vir) jou ordentlik.
Wash yourself properly.
(Ponelis 1979:205)
[+]-er nominalisation

Transitive verbs, with an external argument as subject, are productively used in -er-nominalisations, similar to intransitive verbs, and different from unaccusative verbs. The meaning of such derived nouns is typically "the one(s) performing the action of VERB", thus referring to the subject, rather than the object of the equivalent transitive clause. Typical examples of transitive verbs that are compatible with -er-nominalisation are:

  • et·er eater < Hy eet X He eats X..
  • kop·er buyer < Sy koop X. She buys X

It is also possible, through compounding, to incorporate the implied object of the nominalised verb as premodifier to the noun stem, for instance:

  • vleiseter meat eater < Hy eet vleis. He eats meat.
  • huiskoper home buyer < Sy koop ('n) huis. She buys (a) home.

[+]Attributive use of present and past participle

The past participle form of a verb usually has a passive meaning, and implicitly takes the internal argument of the verb as its object. It can therefore be used attributively in a noun phrase to pre-modify a noun that is interpreted as the object of that verb, but not as its subject. Transitive verbs allow the formation of past participles freely, and can use them attributively in noun phrases where the head noun functions as the implied object of the verb contained in the past participle. Transitive verbs also allow the formation of present participles freely, which combine as attributive adjectives with head nouns that function as implied subject of the verb. The following examples illustrate the use of present and past participles derived from transitive verbs.

a. Die meisie lees die boek.
The girl reads the book.
a.' Die lesende meisie.
The reading girl (= the girl who reads)
a.'' Die geleesde boek.
The read book (=the book that has been read).
b. Die stout kind irriteer die grootmense.
The naughty child irritates the grown-ups.
b.' Die irriterende kind.
The irritating child (=the child who irritates)
b.'' Die geïrriteerde grootmense.
The irritated grown-ups (=the grown-ups who have been irritated)

Transitive verbs in Afrikaans can take the passive voice freely, as illustrated by the examples in (10), which represent the passive voice of the examples in (9). Constraints are idiomatic rather than grammatical, and it is in principle possible to invent a context for any transitive verb to be passivised.

a. Die boek word (deur die meisie) gelees.
The book is read (by the girl).
b. Die grootmense word (deur die kind) geïrriteer.
The grown-ups are irritated (by the naughty child).

Like intransitive verbs, Afrikaans transitive verbs can also take the impersonal passive, as illustrated by the examples in (11). The construction makes it possible to dispense with the overt direct object of the corresponding transitive clause, as shown by (11a), but it is also possible to retain the object, as shown by (11b). The impersonal passive is particularly prevalent with communication and mental verbs that take complement clauses, as illustrated by example (12).

a. Daar word lekker in die sitkamer gelees (deur die gaste).
There is pleasant reading (of the guests) going on in the lounge.
b. Daar word geen verandering aan sy toestand verwag nie.
There is no expectation of a change in his condition/No change in his condition is expected.
a. Daar word gehoop die mans sal nie borgtog kry nie.
It is hoped the men will not get bail.
b. Daar word gesê mense wat tuinmaak is nooit depressief nie.
It is said that people who do gardening are never depressed.
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