Unspecified Verbs - Understanding the Process

Unspecified Verbs – Understanding the Process

Unspecified verbs are verbs (the doing part) in a sentence that don’t fully describe the action taking place. They don’t give enough information to let you know what is going on for them. People usually fill in the gap with their own experience – called Mind reading.

Are you able to picture the events in the statement? If you can’t, or the process is fuzzy, there is probably an unspecified verb (or noun) lurking. Try it “He sat on my foot” – I can make a movie of this. “He hurt my foot” – I am trying on different things in my movie.

Some examples:

My friend hurt me.

  • Accidentally dropped something on your toe?
  • Physically and intentionally abused you in some way?
  • Gave you a rude gesture?
  • Forgot to do something?
  • Not do what you wanted him to do?
  • Said something you interpreted as mean? Yes you look fat in those pants
  • Abandoned you with 10 cats and $2 in the bank?

My boss frustrates me.

  • Does she laugh maniacally first thing Monday morning?
  • Take too long in the bathroom?
  • Hoard all the paper clips?
  • Not give clear instructions?
  • Take credit for your work?
  • Not promote you when you feel you deserve it?
  • Only speak in Turkish when you ask a direct question?

Their children are rude.

  • Do they make lots of noise?
  • Leave the toilet seat up?
  • Fail to send a thank you note after visiting?
  • Throw up on your carpet?
  • Burp without apologizing?
  • Not wear a shirt at the dinner table?
  • Refuse to stand when you enter the room?
  • Only eat in front of the TV?
  • Grunt rather than answer questions?
  • Offer gestures you interpret as rude?

Closely related to unexplained verbs are nominalizations, which are unclear verbs we twist into nouns. Delete then distort. My frustration with boss makes me exhausted. (“My boss frustrates me” becomes a solid thing)

To some extent, every verb is unspecified. We would be overwhelmed if we specified everything. What will you gain by having more information on a particular verb?

Question to recover

  • How specifically…
    • Did your friend hurt you?
    • Does your boss frustrate you?
    • Are they rude?
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