Does the verb "to show" require any objects: direct and/or indirect? eg. We have shown the similarities between patterns of RNA.--> to whom? or is the sentence complete on its own? I know that you can write: "We have shown [somebody] the similarities.....", but this would not be my point. Also, do you know any dictionaries which would provide such information about verb patterns?


Show is used here in the sense of demonstrate or prove and is to be frequently found in that sense in mathematical and scientific writing. All of these words can be used with "that", as in "We have shown that there is an infinity of prime numbers" or without, as in your own example about RNA. The Shorter Oxford English dictionary gives examples of this usage going back as far as Shakespeare.

  • Thank you for your answer. Could you, please, tell me, if the sentence above is correct? I just need to be sure it is. As far as dictionaries go, I am more interested in the ones providing patterns, rather than examples of usage, which you can find in any contemporary dictionary. I use a lot of dictionaries on a daily basis and seldom find what I am looking for in the examples section :/ – Daria Jan 31 '18 at 17:36
  • The sentence "We have shown the similarities between patterns of RNA" is grammatically correct, but in the absence of context hard to interpret. No doubt somewhere there will be an explanation of what patterns are in this context. – JeremyC Jan 31 '18 at 20:12

Show can take 0, 1, or 2 objects. The meanings are different. There are also phrasal variations.

Show w/0 objects: X shows means X is visible, and often it is something that is not supposed to be visible. My underwear is showing. If X is a woman, then it can mean X's pregnancy is visible.

Show w/1 object: X shows Y to Z means X leads or ushers Y to the place Z.

Show w/2 objects: X shows Y Z means X lets Y look at Z, either by presenting it, revealing it, or taking Y to the place where Z is. E.g. X shows Y Z means X gives Y a view of Z.

Phrasal variations include:

show up {at|for} X - to attend or be present at X, where X is an event or function.

show X up - to do something better than X to make X embarrassed.

show X around Y - to give X a tour of a place Y.

show off - to do something for attention.

show X off - to show X to other people for attention.

Many dictionaries will use the terms "transitive" for meanings that use objects and "intransitive" for meanings that don't use objects.

  • Thank you for your extensive explanation. I must admit I am quite a proficient English speaker, aware of the terms "transitive" and "intransitive" in relation to taking objects, although sometimes I find myself thinking about very basic language problems. What I wanted to know, but maybe did not express myself clearly, was if the verb "show", apart from it being transitive, sort of "imposed" any other rules on the construction that follows. In many languages, a given verb can force certain construction on the following words, e.g. prepositional phrases (rely on) and the so-called verb patterns – Daria Jan 31 '18 at 21:12

Toolong for a comment. The sentence "We have shown the similarities between patterns of RNA" is grammatically correct, but in the absence of context hard to interpret. No doubt somewhere there will be an explanation of what patterns are in this context. You touch on a deep subject in your comment about dictionaries! Some would say they are there only to record usage. Patterns are for theorists, and theorists have a poor record in aligning their idea of what the language should be with what it actually is! And that changes every day. No help for learners there, I fear. When I answer a question on this site I try to give a view as to what, as a native BrE speaker, and writer and editor of high level reports, such as to our Parliament, I would find acceptable or odd. Notice is do not say right or wrong. Some things are definitely wrong. Some are right. But some are somewhere in between. This site can help you find out which are which.

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    If something is too long for a comment, it's not appropriate for a comment. If something is not an answer, don't post it as one. If you are elaborating on a point relevant to answering the question, it should be an edit to your existing answer. You should take commentary that is neither part of an answer nor a request for clarification to English Language Learners Chat or create your own chat room and then invite whomever may be interested in the discussion to join you there. – ColleenV Feb 1 '18 at 2:46

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