Grammar Labels for Verbs in English Monolingual Learners’ Dictionaries

Dominic Stewart


The labels ‘passive’ and ‘progressive,’ as well as ‘not passive’ and ‘not progressive,’ are those most commonly adopted in English monolingual learners’ dictionaries to indicate the grammatical category of verb headwords. However, it can happen that for specific verbs very different indications are provided from one dictionary to the next, a fact which would appear to derive primarily from diverging interpretations of corpus data on the part of lexicographers, and more specifically, from diverging interpretations of which corpus occurrences qualify as passive and progressive respectively for any given verb. This will lead to the discussion of a suggested conflict of form and function in corpus lexicography. Further, it is striking that the labels passive and progressive are prioritised at the expense of other verb labels such as imperative–used very sparingly in dictionaries–simple present, perfective and first person, which are not used at all. The corpus consulted is primarily the British Web 2007 (ukWac), but comparisons will be made with data from the British National Corpus.


lexicography, corpus linguistics, learners’ dictionaries, frequency of verbs, grammatical categories, passive

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