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The dog wets vs. The door opens.

Well, a fellow ESL teacher who is taking a degree in English told me she had to explain why it is correct to say, “The door opens.” and why it is incorrect to say, “The dog wets.” My first reaction was thinking that someone or something actuates on the door to open it. Therefore, our saying of, “the door opens” merely refers to the fact that it was opened by a third party. Thus, the sentence may have a passive structure. However, when I try to rephrase, “the dog wets” I find myself lacking an object, therefore I would need to use “get + wet” to validate the passive, but I must not add words to the sentence. I’d rather change the verb. But, alas, the purpose of the exercise is to elaborate on an argument that can satisfactorily state why the sentence is wrong. I told my fellow teacher to consider the fact that “wet” would require an object for the sentence to make sense. Any input, opinion, or observations are appreciated.

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They are two entirely different kinds of sentences aren't they? "The dog gets wet" (the true meaning of the sentence) is analogous to "The dog gets sleepy." Wet and sleepy are both adjectives describing how the dog is.

These sentences are entirely different from, "The door opens," which is analogous to "The dog sleeps." Opens and sleeps are both intransitive verbs here that describe what the dog *does* not how the dog *is.*

Your original two sentences have two different grammatical meanings and that's why it doesn't make sense when you try to force them into the same grammatical structure.

Ben C March 8, 2007, 7:16am

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'The dog wets' lacks a verb...comparing it to 'The door opens' isn't fair since the latter has a verb.

Unless of course 'The dog wets ITSELF' (as in pees in its pants.) But in that case I think that 'wet' is conscripted into being a verb.

And while we wouldn't say 'The door opens itself' but instead, 'The door opens by itself (on its own)' that is only because doors aren't alive.

Anonymous March 8, 2007, 3:50pm

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Maybe I'm just a weirdo but "the dog wets" does not sound ungrammatical to me. We say things like "the dog wet the rug" (where "wet" is a transitive verb that modifies "the rug"). If we simply say "the dog wets," to me, that means the dog peed himself. Since no object is indicated, I interpret that sentence to mean that verb behave reflexively.

AO March 8, 2007, 4:44pm

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"open" can be intransitive, and "wet" is transitive.

John Anderson March 9, 2007, 5:12am

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The dog wets would still be ungrammatical, since as a transitive verb, it still needs to take an object, even if the object is self-referential.

poofygoo March 21, 2007, 9:08am

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Hey Goo,

But isn't "the dog wets" just a laconic way to say "the dog gets wet"? But for some reason (and I have only my intuition as a native English speaker to back what I'm saying), "the dog gets wet" has a more general meaning (like if the dog fell in a pond) whereas "the dog wets," to me, specifically seems to mean that the dog caused himself to be wet, as in, he urinated upon himself.

AO April 8, 2007, 6:07pm

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AO, I think you're right. First of all, while there are many transitive verbs in English, most of them have an intransitive form as well. There are only a few that can only be transitive and wet is not one of them. At least according to and the American Heritage Dictionary, the verb to wet, when used without an object, means to urinate, usually applied to a child or animal, exactly as in this case. Think Betsy-wetsy, the doll that wets. It can also mean to become wet.

porsche April 9, 2007, 10:34am

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Reduce your blatherings to essentials. Until you do, your writing sucks.

David Mills May 9, 2007, 4:34am

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'The dog wets' is simply incomplete and without meaning - even if you interpret it as meaning 'wets himself', you are still mentally adding 'himself' (object) to the sentence. 'To wet' has to have an object, a thing that is being wetted. That is the transitive form, and the only form that it can take.

'To open' can be transitive and intransitive. 'The door opens' has a complete meaning in itself: this is the intransitive form, and does not require an object. 'I open' does not have meaning in itself. I have to open something: 'I open the door'. That is the transitive form, and is the same construct as 'to wet (something)': 'I wet the floor'.

Sian May 20, 2007, 12:03am

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Very interesting, Sian. What is your source for this information? The dictionary says the exact opposite, that wet can be both transitive and intransitive.

Anonymous May 20, 2007, 1:43am

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The dog wets and The door opens... Why not using the wet dog and the open door?

dogdoors777 September 24, 2009, 9:25pm

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Yes     No