Well, it's not going to talk about Middle English, but middle verbs.
There are some verbs, such as, read, slice and break that just like ergative verbs, affect their subjects making confusions whether they are used correctly or not.

We, simply, can use an adverb at the end of the sentences having those middle verbs to make them both correct and logical, if and only if, we know those verbs.

It's a rather complicated issue even for a native speaker and mostly sounds to be of linguistics. But it may cause more problems especially for a non-native speaker, a Kurdish person like me.

What I'm looking for is a list of those verbs (middle verbs) to identify them in sentences/texts and as well as to be able to use them grammatically correct.

If you do not use a list, then how will you recognize them in writings, please?

EDIT: An example sentence: This book reads easily.
Read: middle verb, and "easily" the adverb for making the sentence more logical.

  • 1
    Can you provide an example of when the usage of one of these middle verbs is unclear, and how you are clearing it up with an adverb?
    – Stephen S
    Jun 26 '17 at 18:18
  • What is a middle verb? Whatever do you mean??
    – Lambie
    Jun 26 '17 at 18:35

There are lists of frequently used middle / labile / ergative verbs (here, for instance); but in theory, at least, any English verb might be used in both transitive and intransitive senses; so there's no such thing as a definitive list.

You identify how these verbs are being used by syntax—whether the verb is used transitively or intransitively—and by semantics—whether the subject of the verb is the Agent, the entity performing the action, or the Patient, the entity which undergoes the action of the verb.

John is boiling eggs —This is transitive (there is a direct object), and the subject of the verb boil performs the action.

Eggs are boiling —This is intransitive (there is no direct object), and the subject of the verb boil undergoes the action.

  • 1
    To be honest, I was looking forward to seeing your answer and now glad of it. +1 Some things: 1- that link is of only ergative verbs, I couldn't find a source speaking about the issue thoroughly. 2- Is our only means semantics of the sentences (where those verbs are used)?
    – Abbasi
    Jun 26 '17 at 18:46
  • @Abbasi Ergative, labile, middle are terms used by different authors for these verbs; they all refer to pretty much the same thing, though there's overlap in some terminologies with those ambitransitive verbs in which the subject is always the Agent. Syntax is primary, since the first thing you encounter is the relative positions of the subject and verb. Jun 26 '17 at 18:51
  • OK, I found it. All verbs in English, as in other languages (including mine too), can be used in middle voice, and it mainly depends upon the syntax (word order) and semantics to be sure they are used correctly and rightly. I also found two sources, this and this one on the issue. And as examples, neither ask, nor heard is part of ergative verbs but we can used them as middle verbs this way: 1- This question asked loudly., 2- The lecture hears easily. Do you agree?
    – Abbasi
    Jun 27 '17 at 8:53
  • 1
    @Abbasi You've got it. These will be understood. Do observe, however, that they are departures from ordinary use of these verbs, so they should be reserved for situations where you want to jar your hearer into an unconventional understanding. It's a "professional driver on a closed course" sort of thing. Jun 27 '17 at 9:43
  • 1
    @Abbasi Most of those have common transitive uses: we work bread dough, laugh a speaker off the stage, talk your ear off, sleep the day away, go a rival one better, jump a fence. I can't cite actual uses for lie, smile, happen -- but I can imagine them. Jul 21 '19 at 11:15

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