Delexical Verbs – Examples

We all make regular use of verbs in our sentences. They are words that help us describe an action or a state of being of the subject. In fact, almost every sentence needs to have a verb and subject to be complete in itself.

But have you ever heard of lexical verbs and delexical verbs? They belong to unique categories of verb that aims at describing actions but with different purpose and functionality. In this post, we will discuss the latter form, delexical verb, and try to make sense out of it.

If you are familiar with lexical verbs, you must know that they act as the main verb in a sentence. With delexical verbs, it is just the opposite. Delexical verbs are those that do not have much semantic meaning on their own and instead complement nouns to make complete sense.

What are delexical verbs?

To define delexical verbs, these are simply the most frequently used common verbs such as have, take, give, make, etc. But what makes them delexical is that when they are used in a sentence with a particular expression, especially nouns, they do not have much meaning of their own. That means in a delexical structure, the meaning of a verb is taken out and mostly put into the noun they complement.

These verbs are very common in English, mostly informal, and learning them helps increase one’s skills and fluency. Let us look at some examples to understand them better.

  • I took a bath.
  • They had their lunch.

Here, we see that the verbs took and had have little meaning on their own. Their main meaning is conveyed in the nouns, such as the first sentence indicates, “I showered,” and the second indicates, “They ate something.

Moreover, delexical verbs are usually used with adjectives that help add additional information to the noun to describe the action precisely instead of an adverb.

  • I took a hot bath.
  • They had their big fat lunch.

Usage of delexical verbs

So, we understood that delexical verbs are the ones that do not shoulder much meaning, rather they put it onto the noun.

Now, let us try to understand how some of the common delexical verbs work and what do they mean.


Have in a common-sense means to possess. But in delexical structures, have is used with nouns related to meals, arguments, conversations, resting, etc.

  • She had her breakfast early.
  • They want to have a conversation.


Take is also commonly used like have in terms of washing and resting.

  • He took a shower.
  • Take a long break and move on.


Give is usually used with affectionate actions. They are also used to convey meanings regarding noises, facial expressions, conversations, etc.

  • She gave me a warm welcome.
  • The stranger gave me a cute smile.


We use make mostly with plans and traveling and sometimes, talking.

  • We made the arrangements today.
  • You need to make a quick visit.

These are the common ways of using common verbs as delexical verbs. They are always dependent on the main noun to make sense and convey a complete meaning.

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