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I'm ware that a transitive verb takes a direct object. in the sentence '"You're absolutely right," agreed Jake,' does 'agree' functions as a transitive verb or an intransitive?

I asked GPT-3.5 and here is the response

In the sentence, "'You're absolutely right,' agreed Jake," the verb "agree" is used as an intransitive verb. An intransitive verb is a verb that does not require an object to complete its meaning. In this case, "agree" does not take an object. Jake is simply agreeing with the statement made by someone else, and there is no direct object associated with the verb "agree."

If the verb were used transitively, it would require a direct object. For example, "Jake agreed with your statement," where "your statement" is the direct object of the verb "agreed." In the given sentence, "agreed" is used as an intransitive verb expressing the action of Jake agreeing with the statement without requiring a direct object.

the first part sounds reasonable while the second part, considering 'agree' in 'Jake agreed with your statement' a transitive verb, doesn't seem reasonable. so I cannot trust it on this.

any clues would be greatly appreciated.

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    Your suspicion about Chat GPT's analysis of the second example is well-founded. It's wrong and probably wrong about many other points of grammar too, and is best avoided.
    – BillJ
    Mar 8 at 8:32
  • I would suggest that agreed here is being used as a substitute for said, so you don't need to worry about whether it is transitive or intransitive. Mar 8 at 9:18
  • @KateBunting - something that always irritates me in the poorer type of writing is verbs used as 'agreed' is in the example. 'Yes', agreed Bill. We can tell he bloody agrees, we're not stupid! Likewise 'Stop that', frowned Mary or the most awful thing I ever found, 'Huh!', grumped the old man ('grumped'! really?). Mar 8 at 10:17
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    "That's the most awful thing I ever found", grumped Michael.
    – Hammerite
    Mar 8 at 16:11
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    It's not even worth it to try to argue about this. Best to avoid Chatgpt.
    – Lambie
    Mar 8 at 19:18

3 Answers 3

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I agree with you that the AI is right about "agreed" not being transitive in the starting example, and I also agree with you that "agreed with X" is not a transitive use of agree. "Agree" can be used with a number of prepositions - with, to, as to, about, on, concerning, over. They don't all form new transitive verbs.

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Jake agreed with your statement.

ChatGPT is wrong when it says "your statement" is object of "agreed".

"Agreed" is intransitive here, and "your statement" is object of the preposition "with", not of the verb "agreed".

The verb "agree" is transitive in, for example, "We agreed the fee".

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    I've never heard "We agreed the fee". A transatlantic difference?
    – TimR
    Mar 8 at 12:37
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    @TimR - so common in British English as to be unremarkable. Football ('soccer') teams agree a fee for transferring a player, a client and a self-employed professional (e.g. an accountant, a tree surgeon, workplace trainer, whatever) can agree a fee. Mar 8 at 13:32
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    On this side of the pond, that usage sounds completely incorrect: there needs to be a "to" in there. "We agreed to the fee."
    – Martha
    Mar 8 at 16:20
  • @Martha - that seems odd, but there you go. Here in Britland we can agree a time, a place, a date, a fee, a price, etc. Of course we can also use prepositions such as 'on' or 'to' as well, but their lack does not frighten the horses in the way it seems to over there. Mar 8 at 23:53
  • @Martha - also TimR - question on Quora: How did "agree" become a transitive verb in the UK, but not the US? In the UK, they would say "we agreed the solution" while in the US it would be "we agreed ON the solution." Answer: Since forever. I reckon anyone having to ask this would most likely be American or Canadian... Mar 8 at 23:57
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in the sentence '"You're absolutely right," agreed Jake,' does 'agree' functions as a transitive verb or an intransitive?

In the given sentence, "agreed" is used analogously to "said". If we in fact substituted "said" then the question might be clearer:

"You're absolutely right," said Jake.

This is a transitive usage. Jake is the subject, and the sentence "You're absolutely right" is the direct object -- what Jake said.

The original sentence is no different in this regard. In it, the verb agreed is transitive. Jake uttered the sentence "You're absolutely right" as an expression of agreement. The sentence he uttered is a direct object. The first part of ChatGPT's response is wrong.

Compare:

Jake agreed. "You're absolutely right," he said.

There, "agreed" is used intransitively -- evidently so, because it appears in a sentence with no object at all.

On the other hand, in

Jake agreed that you were right.

... "agreed" is again transitive. What did Jake agree? He agreed that you were right.


Let's now consider the second part of ChatGPT's response. It offers

Jake agreed with your statement.

as an example of transitive usage. I'm inclined to agree, and I take Merriam-Webster to do so too. Jake did not merely agree in general. He agreed (with) a specific thing, your statement. M-W offers this similar example of transitive usage:

They agreed that he was right.

I don't see why "agree that <some proposition>" should be distinguished from "agree with <some proposition>" as far as transience goes. Either way, a specific thing is being agreed, and that thing is a direct object.

There are better examples that ChatGPT might have chosen, however, because "agree with" can also be intransitive. If

Jake agreed with Eleanor.

then Eleanor is an indirect object. The specific thing that the two agreed is not conveyed by the sentence.

So, the second part of ChatGPT's response is right, but nevertheless a bit wanting.

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  • -1 I disagree. "Agree" is not transitive here. In the example 'You're absolutely right,' said Jake, the sequence "said Jake" has the form of a parenthetical (a type of supplement). The subject of the whole sentence is "you", and the verb phrase "are absolutely right" is the predicate. This then, as I said, has "said Jake" tagged on the end as a parenthetical. Note that in the parenthetical "said Jake" there is postposing of the subject "Jake".
    – BillJ
    Mar 9 at 8:32
  • Well, @BillJ, the OED seems to disagree with you, at least with regard to say / said. Mar 9 at 14:13
  • These sentences exhibit subject / object inversion. The "said" example is equivalent to "Jake said, 'You're absolutely right'." I hope you agree, @BillJ, that in that variation, Jake is the subject, said is the verb, and the sentence You're absolutely right is the direct object of "said". In that case, "said" is used transitively. Inverting subject and object does not change the analysis. Mar 9 at 14:26
  • I'm afraid I don't agree. Changing the construction does change the analysis, though there's still no direct object. In your new example, the direct speech is embedded, as opposed to non-embedded as in your previous example. This time, the reporting verb is syntactically superordinate to the reported speech, which is a complement of the reporting verb ("said"). However, this complement - "You're absolutely right" - is not a subordinate clause. What is embedded happens to have the form of a clause, but it involves the embedding of a text, not a clause as such.
    – BillJ
    Mar 9 at 16:54

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