What the patterns indicate
What the patterns indicateWhen you use an ergative verb, you have a choice between two (or more) patterns. These patterns allow you to talk about the world in very different ways. For example, you can choose to indicate that an event just happens, perhaps as a natural occurrence, without indicating that someone or something is responsible for it. Or you can indicate that someone or something is the cause of an event and so is responsible for it. Compare the examples below. (Unlike the other examples in this book, these and the following examples have been invented to illustrate the differences in meaning between the patterns.)
In the first example in each pair there is only one noun group. This noun group indicates something that does something or has something happen to it: the vase breaks, the volume varies, and the factories close. We can call the vase, the volume and the factories the 'doer'. In these examples with only a 'doer', you are not told what the cause of the action is. In fact, you may understand that the action has no cause. You may think, for example, that the vase broke by itself. Or you may understand that there is a cause but that the speaker or writer has chosen not to mention it. You may think, for example, that someone caused the vase to break but that the speaker or reader is deliberately hiding that information.In the second example out of each pair there are two noun groups. One of them indicates the 'doer' and the other indicates the person or thing that causes the action: John causes the vase to break, the technician causes the volume to vary, and the government's policies cause the factories to close. We can call John, the technician and the government's policies the 'causer'. In these examples with both a 'doer' and a 'causer', you can understand the clause in only one way: that someone or something caused something to happen.How the 'doer' and the 'causer' relate to the action depends on who or what they are. Here are some more examples:
The vase broke.
John broke the vase.
The volume often varies.
The technician can vary the volume.
Many factories closed.
The government's policies closed many factories.