How to Add A New Word to the Dictionaries - Part XII - Transitive & Intransitive Verbal Phrases
We must start out this week’s tip with a word of caution:
There are certain verbs, especially in English, which can behave both as transitive and intransitive. However, unlike the verb “to sing a song” (requiring only one entry which works as both transitive and intransitive, as per our Tip # 58), they must be entered as separate entries in your dictionary because their translations in Spanish are quite different in each instance.
In the case of “to sing a song”, we said that, even though it is both transitive and intransitive, it only needs a single dictionary entry because the translation is the same, whether there is a direct object or not. Example:
I sing a song = Yo canto una canción
I sing them a song = Yo les canto una canción.
Notice than in both cases, the translation is “cantar una canción”. The pronoun (les) is separate from the translated entry, placed there by ESI as an apposition.
However, take a look at this other verb, which also is transitive and intransitive: “to tag along”. We will see why this verb requires two separate entries.
If you use it in an intransitive context your translation would be “venir detrás”.
Their car tagged along → Su coche venía detrás.
However, the transitive case would be:
Their car tagged along our car → Su coche seguía a nuestro coche.
The transitive translation is “seguir a” whereas the intransitive one is “venir detrás”. Therefore, it becomes evident that there is an impelling necessity of creating separate entries for the English verb “tag along”, one classified as transitive and the other one as intransitive.
Naturally, in Spanish this is also a common occurrence. Just one example should suffice to illustrate our point:
(Person) + saber (transitive) = to know + something
(Person) + saber (Intransitive) = to know
(Food) + saber (Intransitive) = to taste (good or bad).
Just for the sake of information, all verbs included in our dictionaries are also classified with another attribute we call “substance”: Substance can be either abstract, animate and physical. There are certain verbs that have a clear affinity to specific “substances” of the direct objects (abstract, animate or physical objects). They also have an affinity to specific “substances” found in their subjects. In the above cases, “saber (know)” is classified as having an affinity regarding animate subjects and abstract objects, whereas “saber (taste)” is classified as having an affinity to physical subjects only, and more specifically, to foods.
When ESI makes its choice, it takes into consideration all these factors, plus the transitivity and the pronoun combinations.
In our forthcoming Version 5.0, this selection mechanism is going to be perfected to never-seen-before standards. Keep a lookout for the release of Version 5.0 and you will really be surprised at all the new features involved.
Our tip this week: You have to be extra careful when adding verbs to your dictionary.