Light Verbs
(1,003 words)

Traditionally, the term light verb refers to semantically bleached verbs such as take in English and suru ‘do’ in Japanese (Campbell 1989; Grimshaw and Mester 1988). It has acquired another meaning in syntactic theory as the head of a transitive predicate, represented as v (Chomsky 1995). The light verb v selects the external argument, heads a phase, agrees with the internal argument in phi-features (called the probe-goal relation), and assigns accusative case to the internal argument (Chomsky 2001, 2004).


John broke the window.


[IP … [vP John v [VP break [NP the window]]]]

In (1),…

Cite this page
T.-H. Jonah LIN, “Light Verbs”, in: Encyclopedia of Chinese Language and Linguistics, General Editor Rint Sybesma. Consulted online on 19 February 2019 <>
First published online: 2015

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