It seems that certain verbs that used to be intransitive have evolved into transitive
verbs. For example:
You need more capital to grow your business.
More than two hundred people were disappeared last year.
Is this a trend,
and is there a pattern to the trend?
Posted 30 August 2002
Just as nouns are becoming
verbs (to source, to gift, to impact, to network, to author
[a book], to chair [a meeting]), verbs that have always been
intransitive (without a grammatical object) are slowly becoming transitive
(with an object). Yes, there is a trend, and the trend often follows
a pattern. A new usage generally originates within a special, limited
domain, as with the use of grow with objects other
than objects in nature. Rachel posted an informative message about
transitive usage of grow, in which she quotes the New
York Times Manual of Style and Usage (p. 149):
The newer usage
of grow to mean expand (grow the business;
grow revenue) is business jargon, best resisted
(To see the
original message, click here.)
I might add that President Bill Clinton often used the statement "We
have to grow the economy." Other objects commonly used with grow are business and market.
It remains to be seen whether this transitive usage will spread to
domains outside of business and
The transitive usage of disappear, as in "Two hundred
people have been disappeared this year alone," is still restricted to
political, historical, sociological, and journalistic speech and writing,
and involves only human objects. The transitive use of this normally
intransitive verb arose, I think, for two reasons. First, the "disappearances" occurred
in Latin America, where the Spanish desaparecer is both
intransitive and transitive. Second, no other word in English could
express the idea of someone being picked up and taken away secretly,
never to be found or seen again. In early usage, the verb appeared
quotation marks ("Dozens of students have been ‘disappeared?) to indicate
that it was being used in a special way. Now it is used both with and
without quotation marks, indicating that this usage has entered the
A much newer transition from intransitive to transitive is taking place
with the verb expire. Just this week I received a
notice from my Internet provider telling me:
[Accounts like yours] are
expired annually?We will expire all ?accounts
which have not been renewed on or after 9/16/2002. If you do wish
to have your account expired, you need do nothing.
Curious, I did a Google
search and found that expire is
being used transitively in a variety of contexts:
We have expired
all the cookies from this portal on your computer.
The meeting is still running but we have expired both of the agenda
Our old access numbers have been expired.
All of these usages involve things with expiration dates, but one rather
alarming example has a human object:
We have expired some members who are overdue for renewal.
transitive usage of "expire" is very restricted and will
not, I predict, become mainstream for quite some time.