The beer pours a hazy yellow color with a huge white head.

Is this sentence OK in terms of using the verb "pour". I regularly find this phrase in beer reviews. Can the beer really pour something? I would understand the sentence: After pouring into the glass, the beer has yellow color with a huge white head…

  • As Zach points out, it almost sounds like the beer is pouring itself. Try using "was" or make it a compound sentence, "The beer is pouring and has a hazy.." – theREALyumdub Aug 26 '15 at 18:12
up vote 6 down vote accepted

This is a pattern common to many English verbs, which have both a transitive sense in which an action is carried out on a direct object and an intransitive sense in which the direct object becomes the subject and carries out the activity itself.

Grady is cooking dinner. → Dinner is cooking.
Dale looks at Sandra. → Sandra looks good.
Patty's flying a kite. → The kite is flying.

Sometimes the transitive sense represents a causative use of an originally intransitive verb; sometimes the intransitive verb represents a 'middle voice' use of an originally transitive verb.

  • +1 But, I think the sentence might still be confusing for students --> "a hazy yellow colour" kind of looks like an Object. What is it? :) – Araucaria Aug 26 '15 at 14:39
  • Thank you for your response. Can I say thus "the beer pours into the glasses"? Could you please give mi one or two examples of the transitive sense representing a causative use of an originally intransitive verb. – bart-leby Aug 26 '15 at 14:41
  • 1
    @Auracaria As you know (but others may not), it's an adjectivally deployed noun phrase acting as subject-depictive predicate complement. (And if that don't put you off grammar for a month or two you're a better man than I am.) – StoneyB Aug 26 '15 at 15:30
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    @bart-leby 1) These middle-voice or ergative uses are often reserved for specific contexts. In your example, for instance, the connoisseur uses it to speak of the qualities which the beer exhibits when it is poured. You find very similar uses in car reviews: "The Madragora XL drives comfortably and handles smoothly at all speeds." 2) Flying a kite (or an airplane) = cause it to fly. Walking your dog = cause it to walk. – StoneyB Aug 26 '15 at 15:39
  • The example that sprung to my mind is, "A new day dawns..." – J.R. Aug 27 '15 at 0:31

This is unconventional use, almost to the extent of poetic license.

To write out the action of the sentence using all the words conventionally, it might look more like this:

The beer is a sentient being that pours itself, and during the process, it creates a hazy yellow color and a huge white head.

Presenting it this way makes the beer into a character that takes action, and to the intended audience might make the beer more endearing. Compare this to wine reviews that apply human personality traits to the wines they review.

The presentation also implies that the action of pouring the beer is also an act of creating something new.

  • (Native AmE) "The beer pours a hazy yellow color" sounds normal to me. It's an ordinary English grammatical construction, also seen in "Cook the chicken until the juices run clear" and "When you tip your glass, the beer pours out." StoneyB's answer explains the principle. – Ben Kovitz Oct 10 '15 at 15:42

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