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TIP #62 - This tip was sent on the week: 23th - 29th Oct, 2005

This tip applies to the following programs:

  • ESI Professional

How to Add A New Word to the Dictionaries - Part XIII - How to enter a Verb or Phrasal Verb


Much has been said about how careful you must be when adding new verbs to your dictionary.


Here are some more clues that will help you make a correct addition:

  1. Verbs should be added without the preposition “to” in front. For instance, “to eat” is not an acceptable entry. The correct entry should be “eat”.
  2. When adding a phrasal verb, the first word at the left should be the root verb. For instance, “usually take a walk“ is not an acceptable entry . The correct entry should be “take a walk”. However, you may enter “take + usually + a walk” , or any other word(s) in between.
  3. Always enter the verb in the infinitive. ESI’s system will take care of the different moods and conjugations in all persons and tenses, even if it is an irregular Spanish verb.
  4. Use a hyphen if the inflection of the conjugations falls on the second word, not on the root verb.
  5. Use no hyphen if the inflection of the conjugations falls on the root of the phrasal verb (the first word).

These two last items are very important for a correct conjugation of the verb. A few examples will illustrate the point in question.


Take for instance a compound verb such as “go out”. The conjugations of this phrasal verb apply to the root: “go”. You say: he goes, we went, we are going, etc. The particle “out” remains unchanged in all conjugations. Therefore, this phrasal verb should not be hyphenated. You enter it just like it appears in all dictionaries, “go out”


However, a verb such “spot-weld” should be hyphenated because you conjugate the second word, not the first one. You say: he spot-welds, we spot-welded, we are spot-welding, etc.


If you have doubts about the correct way to enter a verbal phrase, refer to an English dictionary. However, there might be some cases where newly-coined words have not yet made their way into regular dictionaries.


Such was the case of a query we received recently about the verb “spot clean”. The User complained that “spot clean” was not being conjugated correctly and that it was often not recognized at all in the text.


Since this is a new addition to the industry, it is not registered in any regular dictionary, even unabridged ones.


Therefore, we advised our customer: ”Use the following test: if the past-tense conjugation sounds correct using the form “He spotted clean the carpet”, then it should be entered without the hyphen. If, on the other hand “He spot-cleaned the carpet” sounds better, then it should have the hyphen.”


The User said the latter was the case. He entered the verb with the hyphen, “spot-clean”, and … Problem solved!

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