An accusative verb is a verb that would normally take a direct object but can also be used as an intransitive verb without the meaning being changed. Some examples in English are eat, see, win. For example:
- John ate an apple vs. John ate
- I see what you mean vs. I see
- Our team won the match vs. Our team won
In Latin and German, apple in the first example would be in the accusative case (in other words, it would have the form that is used for the direct object of a verb). An 'accusative verb' thus had a direct object in the accusative case if it is used transitively.
Accusative verbs can be distinguished from unaccusative verbs. The latter are intransitive verbs that indicate a change of state (usually involuntary):
- The window broke
- The door opened
- The man died
- The tree fell
The first two verbs above can be used with a direct object but with a change of meaning (for example, 'broke something' vs. 'got broken itself').
Accusative verbs can be distinguished from unergative verbs as well, which are intransitive verbs that do not describe a change of state but also do not usually take a direct object:
- Mary ran
- John telephoned
- The children worked hard