The following are some examples of light-verb constructions from modern Indo-European languages:

.a.prendre une décision (take a decision) ‘decide’
Frenchb.faire une promenade (make a promenade) ‘promenade’
.a.zur Aufführung bringen (bring to performance) ‘perform’
Germanb.zur Aufführung gelangen/kommen (come to performance) ‘be performed’
.a.dar uma chapada (give a slap) ‘slap’
Portb.levar uma chapada (bear a slap) ‘be slapped’

The light verbs in are:

A light-verb construction (LVC) is the core of a verb phrase with the following structure (order of elements is irrelevant):

[ ... [ [ A ]C [ B ]V ]LVC ]VP


B is called a light verb (also: vector verb, support verb, German Funktionsverb, French verbe support).

A is called the inner complement of the LVC.

The LVC is the core of a VP.
The three dots represent complements and adjuncts of the LVC.

The LVC acts like a full verb:

Two parameters that classify light-verb constructions are

  1. C may be a) a category of its own which contains elementary lexemes; or b) A may be a verbal noun.
  2. LVCs may be a) grammaticalized or b) lexicalized.

Ad 1:

  1. Some languages have a very small class of verbs (below 50, sometimes below 30). All of these verbs are then comparable to light verbs of SAE languages. Such languages may have a word class that may be called ‘coverb’.1 The class shares combinatorial properties with SAE nouns and adverbs. Its members provide the bulk of meanings coded as verbs in SAE languages.
  2. Languages with a fully developed class of verbs may nevertheless use LVCs. C is then = NP or AdpP; A are typically action nouns. This is illustrated in .

Ad 2:

  1. In the grammaticalized variety, the combination of A and B is fully compositional (as in ). There is a syntactic paradigm of LVCs opposed by voice or aspect/aktionsart. The light verbs B in these constructions are grammaticalized and form a paradigm. In this function, light verbs are comparable to voice/aspect auxiliaries.
  2. In the lexicalized variety, the combination of A and B constitutes a lexeme. Paradigmatic relations to other LVCs are then irregular. .a is an example. This happens typically if A itself is not derived in a regular way from a verb.

LVCs of subclass 1.b + 2.a are in a paradigmatic (possibly synonymy) relation with a construction that consists solely of the (finite) full verb corresponding to (typically, underlying) A and has the same valency as the latter (apart perhaps from increased obligatoriness of complements). Different light-verb constructions with the same A then replicate the voice or aspect paradigm of the underlying full verb. For instance, .a is largely synonymous with aufführen ‘perform’; and so is .b with aufgeführt werden ‘be performed’.

1 although that term has other uses, too