Delexical verbs, also known as “light verbs” or “empty verbs,” are verbs that carry relatively little meaning on their own and are often used in conjunction with nouns or noun phrases to create specific verb-noun combinations. These combinations convey a more precise or nuanced meaning than the verb or noun would convey individually. In essence, delexical verbs are used to structure and frame the action described by the noun, rather than providing a significant amount of semantic content themselves.
The concept of delexical verbs is closely related to the idea of “collocations,” which are words that frequently appear together in a natural language and have established patterns of usage.
Examples of delexical verbs in English include:
- Make: “Make breakfast,” “make a decision,” “make an effort.” In these examples, the verb “make” is used to indicate the act of creating, performing, or initiating the action described by the following noun.
- Take: “Take a shower,” “take a walk,” “take a photo.” The verb “take” is often used to express the act of performing an action related to the noun that follows.
- Have: “Have a conversation,” “have a party,” “have a look.” The verb “have” is used to indicate experiencing or participating in the activity described by the noun.
- Do: “Do your homework,” “do the dishes,” “do a favor.” The verb “do” is often used to indicate performing a task or an action that is not explicitly described by the noun.
- Give: “Give a presentation,” “give advice,” “give a gift.” The verb “give” is used to indicate the act of providing or presenting something described by the noun.
- Go: “Go for a walk,” “going dancing,” “gone shopping.” The verb “go” combined with certain nouns creates specific verb-noun combinations that convey particular actions or meanings.
These delexical verbs are used to create specific verb-noun combinations that are commonly understood by native speakers. While the delexical verb itself may not contribute much to the overall meaning, it serves as a structural element that helps convey the relationship between the verb and the noun in a concise and idiomatic manner.