"The man paints the wall red".

The verb to paint can take three arguments, the object, the subject and the colour of the paint. What kind of verb is this?

"The man colours the paper blue".

I think it's because this stands in for the (infinite) set of verbs "colours-blue" "colours-red" "colours-green" etc. e.g. "The man colours-red the paper". As colours exist in more than one axis.

Whereas for things like size we have verbs like "enlarges the balloon" instead of "sizes the balloon large".

Also it could exist for emotions.

"The clown makes the children happy".

"Makes" can stand in for a lot.

Are there any other verbs like this?

  • Hammer, send, cook, give, tickle, slap.
    – user6726
    Jun 10, 2019 at 0:02
  • 2
    Interestingly, there are also quadrivalent verbs, as in "I bet you ten pounds that it rains" or "I'll trade you this bicycle for your binoculars".
    – BillJ
    Jun 10, 2019 at 6:30
  • Though that's semantics more than syntax. The Commercial Transaction Frame isn't restricted to syntactic arguments.
    – jlawler
    Jun 10, 2019 at 14:25
  • @user6726. Nope these only take 2 arguments. "The man hammers the nail". "The man send the letter". "The man cooks the pie".
    – zooby
    Jun 10, 2019 at 19:51
  • @BillJ Intersting.... Although these have an added word "that" or "for".
    – zooby
    Jun 10, 2019 at 19:53

1 Answer 1


Syntactically, verbs with two objects are ditransitive, which is just a fancy word for "takes three arguments". In English, one of these arguments goes before the verb and takes the subjective case, while the other two go after the verb and take the objective case.

Semantically, the third argument here is the manner of the action: it's semantically similar to "the man paints the wall vigorously", but syntactically different (compare "the man vigorously paints the wall" against *"the man blue paints the wall").

Many verbs that indicate an imposed state, without inherently indicating what that state is, can mark a manner in this way: "make" is a good generic one, as you noted, but also "turn", "set", "call", and so on.

  • Yes, "The father names the girl Emma" is a good one. "The fire turns the wood black". "The cook turns the oven up".
    – zooby
    Jun 10, 2019 at 19:55
  • 2
    I wonder if some languages "The man blue-paints the wall" is a common way of expressing things.
    – zooby
    Jun 10, 2019 at 20:02
  • 1
    @zooby Yes! This is called "noun incorporation". See en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incorporation_(linguistics) Jun 11, 2019 at 23:27

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