I'd like to know, are there any equivalent verb classes in French for Levin's English verbs classes, especially for the class of motion verbs. How many motion verbs are there in French language? Where can I find a detail of all these verbs? Thanks a lot!

  • What do you need them for? What details are you searching for? (What did you try?) / I'm not exactly sure how this question relates to French Language, if you're just searching for a list of verbs. Maybe a better fit at Linguistics.Stack Exchange. Feb 6, 2013 at 18:22
  • 3
    @NikanaReklawyks Since it is only about French, I think it fits here.
    – Evpok
    Feb 6, 2013 at 18:52

1 Answer 1


Jean Dubois and Françoise Dubois-Charlier have made a global semantic classification of the verbs in French, the reference site for this database is at their homepage (in French). It features a browsable version of the database and many information documents.

I am not familiar with Levin's classes, but this may be what you want. Regarding motion verbs, you may want to browse the generic classes “M: mouvement sur place”, “E: entrée, sortie”, “H: états physiques et comportements” and in certain cases “L: locatif”.

However, remember that this classification can't be an exact equivalent, since English and French (motion) verbs follow two different paradigms¹, namely English is satellite-framed whereas (modern²) French is verb-framed. Basically, it means that “Running into X” is “Entrer dans X en courant” in French: in English the direction of movement is determined by the satellite (into) and the type of movement is determined by the verb ; it is the opposite in French. So any attempt to blindly apply a Levin-like classification to French verbs will fail.

¹ In Leonard Talmy's typology of framing. See his academic homepage to know every-bloody-thing about it. His original study was of motion events, so it should be of interest to you.

² It is not true of Old French and there are still traces of it in Modern French, see the remarkable article of Anetta Kopecka The semantic structure of motion verbs in French. Typological perspectives.

  • Merci beaucoup pour les informations qui sont très utiles pour mes recherches! Vous êtes très gentil, Evpok! J'essaie d'analyser tous les verbes de déplacement en français, mais je n'en ai pas trouvé la liste. En anglais, Levin a décrit un classement de presque tous les verbes. Donc, je me demande s'il existe aussi un classement similaire en français. J'ai lu la pageweb de Jean-Dubois. C'est déjà très détaillé. Et merci pour tes conseils aussi!
    – fang hu
    Feb 7, 2013 at 23:30

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