Re: "Deponent" verbs

From: Ronald Ross (
Date: Wed Feb 26 1997 - 14:58:48 EST

James H. Vellenga wrote:
> I think Carl's points are well taken (as they were the last time
> around).
> After the last time, I got to wondering if there are verbs that
> we use only in the passive in English -- or that, like DEOMAI,
> seem to take on a different meaning when used in the passive.
> A couple of suggestions: while my dictionary lists both
> "nonplus" and "discombobulate" as transitive verbs, I don't
> think I've ever heard or seen them used in the active voice,
> as in "He nonplussed his mother" or "You just discombobulated me".
> If I heard them, I'd understand them, but they would have a
> touch of jocularity about them.

In a similar vein, there expressions that have no active form. The only
one that comes to mind right now is "to have been had", but there are

> Another one would be "I'm delighted to see you." While we
> do use "delight" actively ("Her antics delighted her father"),
> when we use it passively, I think we're focusing more on
> an internal state of feeling than on receiving some kind of
> action.

Is "I'm delighted to see you" passive? I don't think so. To include an
agent here would be unthinkable: "*I'm delighted by William to see
you." I think that "delighted" here is being used as an ordinary
adjective and the sentence is synonymous with "I'm happy to see you."

Ron Ross

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