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Middle Verbs - Teacher's Notes Bookmark and Share

Grammar - information and contents

Middle verbs are verbs which can either be transitive or intransitive. When they are transitive, they can take an object and can also be made passive. When they are intransitive, they do not take an object. Look at these examples:

(a) The fire burned the house. - transitive/active

(b) The house was burned by the fire. - transitive/passive

(c) The house burned. - intransitive/middle

In sentence (a) burned is active because it has the object the house.

In sentence (b) was burned is passive, with the house, the object of sentence (a) becoming the subject of the passive verb, and the fire becoming the agent. 

In sentence (c) burned is not transitive, because the house is the subject and houses cannot burn anything. It is not passive, because there is no passive construction. It is technically active, but also intransitive, as there is no object. In effect, it shares both active and passive features, which is why we refer to it as middle. 

There are many middle verbs in English. Some of them appear in the worksheets in this section, but there will be many more in the password- protected worksheets when they come on line. In other textbooks and grammar books, they may be referred to differently (or not at all). 

© Marc Loewenthal,, 2000-2012