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Factitive Verbs



New Latin factitivus, irregular from Latin factus (past participle of facere to make, do) + -ivus -ive

A factitive verb answers the question, "What was it made?"

Take some time to consider the possible variations on this question, such as "What were they appointed as?" or "What was that selected to be?"  In all answers to such questions, the factitive verbs are transitive and make or designate one thing or person as another. Consequently, factitive verbs seem to take two related objects: a direct object and an indirect object (a.k.a. second complement):

"U.S. News and World Report named our college the best in the northeast."

In this sentence, "our college" is the direct object and "the best" is the indirect object. In reality, the indirect object is the object of the preposition "as," which has been dropped in the same fashion as the preposition "to" is dropped from the indirect object of verbs like "give" that create the dative case. (See "Transitive Verbs." However, you can always add the preposition back into the construction if you are ever confused about what type of verb it is:

"U.S. News and World Report named our college as the best in the northeast."

(Beware: The word "as" has different meanings and different parts of speech, including adverb, conjunction, and even pronoun.) The factitive verbs include:

appoint, assign, choose, deem, designate, elect, judge, make, name, and select

They are diagrammed a little differently from other verbs in that they are somewhat like a combination of linking verbs and transitive verbs: the object complement is put on the same line as the object, and placed after a diagonal line slanting toward the direct object.

If you prefer, though, you can always diagram it by including the missing preposition "as," and by placing the complement where the object of that preposition would go:


Don't over-think factitive verbs, but if you want to ponder further what makes them so special, treat them as if they were a cross between a linking verb and a causative verb:

Linking Verb

a verb that brings about another state of being, becoming, or appearance.

He became the interim superintendent.
Causative Verb (+ Linking Verb Infinitive)

a verb that brings about another action

We selected him to become interim superintendent.
Factitive Verb

a verb that makes something animate or inanimate become something else.

We selected him [as] interim superintendent.
Last Updated: 02/08/2015


Karl J Sherlock
Associate Professor, English
Phone: 619-644-7871

  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District