TheFreeDictionary says about "convolute":

intr. & tr.v. To coil or fold or cause to coil or fold in overlapping whorls.

You can see that article here - convolute

Can you explain to me why there is not enough to say just "to coil or fold", but there is also world "cause"? I mean why English people distinguish "to coil" and "cause to coil"?

  • 1
    Because things like proteins can fold intransitively (we don't normally assume that some external "agent" causes them to fold). That's why the definition specifically says intr. & tr.v. Commented Feb 16, 2020 at 15:17
  • Bear in mind that this term is often used as an image and as an adjective: a convoluted problem, a convoluted situation. You won't see: The whorls do not convolute.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 0:06
  • @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica I have no idea what your comment means.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 0:07
  • @Lambie: I wasn't familiar with ergative - a verb that can be used in a construction in which the same noun phrase can serve as a subject when the verb is intransitive, and as a direct object when the verb is transitive. But that's essentially what I meant, and it looks to me like what the OP needs to know here. Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 11:22

2 Answers 2


The word "fold" can be used in two ways:

I fold the bed. (transitive)

The bed folds for storage. (intranitive)

Such verbs are sometimes called ergative. The dictionary definition suggests that "convolute" can also be used both transitively or intransitively (but it is a rare word as a verb, it's more common as an adjective "convoluted")


It's a matter of what verb is being referenced. I.E. am I doing the [verb] or am I doing something that makes the object [verb] ?

"To coil" is as if I am doing the coiling. Example: "I coil the spaghetti."

"To cause to coil", I am not doing the coiling, but somehow it still coils. Example: "I boil water and cause the spaghetti to coil."

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