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I want to describe in writing that someone suddenly becomes sad. For example, John and Mike are chatting in a restaurant. John explains what happened in his life. Initially he was speaking normally. Then, he becomes sad while describing a event, later tears comes out from his eyes. Now, how do I say he becomes sad or how I say his face becomes sad (before tears fall out from his eyes)?

Can I write "John saddens"?

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    Sadden is ordinarily a transitive verb, to "make someone sad". OED 1 has the intransitive sense, to "grow or becme sad", but cites only poetic uses after the 18th century. – StoneyB Aug 4 '13 at 19:51
  • @StoneyB So you suggest to use "He becomes sad"? – T2E Aug 4 '13 at 19:59
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    That's cool. So is "He grows sad". So, for that matter, is "He saddens", if you don't mind sounding like John Keats: "He who saddens / At thought of idleness cannot be idle, / And he’s awake who thinks himself asleep." – StoneyB Aug 4 '13 at 20:10
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The usual construction is "He IS saddenED." That is, it is a predicate adjective, as opposed to a predicate.

Another construction is (e.g.), "The DEATH saddens HIM." In this construction, the reference to the person is as an object, which is to say in the passive.

"He saddens" (nominative) just doesn't work.

  • But I want the sentence in present tense. – T2E Aug 4 '13 at 19:58
  • @T2E: All right, see my edit. – Tom Au Aug 4 '13 at 20:01
  • Now I understand, "He saddens" is not correct, but what is the correct form? – T2E Aug 5 '13 at 4:59
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    @T2E: The correct form is "He BECOMES sad." – Tom Au Aug 5 '13 at 12:49

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