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What Are Perception Verbs?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 23, 2024
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Perception verbs are certain words in a language that are used to indicate actions involving the senses or the ability to perceive the surrounding world. In English, these verbs can be transitive or intransitive, which means they may or may not require an object that the subject perceives. Perceptions verbs in English are typically used in either an active or inactive way, with active forms indicating that someone is making an effort to perceive something else. Inactive forms, on the other hand, describe perceptions that occur regardless of whether someone is performing an action to make such a perception.

Much like other verbs in English, perception verbs are used as a predicate within a sentence to describe an action that occurs. These verbs are specifically used to indicate actions that involve someone’s senses or ability to perceive the world around him or her. In a simple sentence like “I look at a cat,” the word “see” is a verb of perception that indicates an action someone takes.

To use the example, “I see a dog,” the word “I” is the subject in the sentence, which indicates that it is the thing taking the action in the sentence. This is followed by “see,” one of the perception verbs connected to vision or sight, which is the predicate in the sentence. The verb “see” indicates what action the subject is taking. This is then followed by the noun phrase “a dog,” which is the direct object of the sentence and indicates the thing that the subject’s action is taken upon.

Perception verbs can be either transitive or intransitive. Transitive verbs are used in a way that requires they be followed by at least one object in order for the sentence to make sense. Perception verbs like “heard” and “taste” are often transitive, since they require an object that is “heard” or “tasted” by the subject of a sentence. In contrast to this, words like “sound” and “feel” can be intransitive, which means they do not require an object. Sentences like “You sound great” and “I feel cold” do not have objects; they have compliments that describe the subject.

There are also both active and inactive forms of perception verbs. An active form indicates that the subject of a sentence is making an effort to perceive something else, such as a sentence like “I look at the cat.” In this example, the subject is actively looking at the object.

Inactive perception verbs still indicate that the subject perceives something, but it occurs without effort. This can be seen in a statement like “I feel cold,” in which the subject perceives “coldness” but is not actively trying to do so. Some perception verbs can be both active and inactive, depending on how they are used, such as “smell” and “taste;” while “look” is typically active and “see” is usually inactive.

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