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  1. #1
    Lenka is offline Senior Member
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    Default dinner was cooking

    I read this sentence in an English book:

    The dinner was cooking and the Joad house was full of smoke. (The Grapes of Wrath)


    <= the dinner didn't cook itself, so why active and not passive? I can a little... In my language we can say it both active (can be said), but I've always been taught not to translate from Czech to English literally...
    Anyway, if this sentence emphasizes that noone was there to keep it and look after the dinner while it was lying on the cooker, can I use it in normal speech? Or is it a very literary expression or phrase that noone uses?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: dinner was cooking

    The given sentence the dinner was cooking is not a literary expression but an unusual one .. so there seems no problem with such an expression.

    Cook also means ''to become heated'' :) but to tell the truth this kind of usage is not widely known.

  3. #3
    Lenka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: dinner was cooking

    Really? I thought we can only say "She is cooking the dinner".... but how can a dinner cook something? It can cook itself?
    It can be cooking in the meaning - it is being heated?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: dinner was cooking

    Something can cook by itself, too :)

  5. #5
    Lenka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: dinner was cooking

    OK, Thanks :)

    By the way, this sentence is really totally new for me... I've never heard of it, before!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: dinner was cooking

    ít's not that dinner is cooking itself.

    Let's see, this verb can tak both the transitive and the intransitive form.

    As transitive, it requires an object: I'm cooking dinner.
    As intransitive, it does not: I'm cooking.

    Now, your sentence is a special case of the intransitive in which the verb is used with a shifted meaning, but is still intransitive. In this case, to say that dinner was cooking is tantamount to saying dinner was being cooked.

  7. #7
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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  8. #8
    Lenka is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: dinner was cooking

    Thank you... I've really never heard before about ergative and middle verbs! usingenglish.com helps me really very much...

    I'd like to thank you all!

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: dinner was cooking

    You're welcome. These terms are being discussed quite a bit at the moment.

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