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A. Schuyler
A. Schuyler, Research Analyst
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This is a grammar question regarding the verb, CONSERVE. Webster'

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This is a grammar question regarding the verb, CONSERVE. Webster's dictionary says it is a transitive verb, and I have always heard it used in the transitive sense, for example,

"I conserve fuel."

But, I have just heard a laboratory researcher use it in the intransitive sense:

"In light of the evolutionary process, the organ system in the fruit fly, like the organ system in the human, is conserved throughout evolution."

Is Webster's dictionary incorrect? Should the dictionary list CONSERVE as both transitive and intransitive?


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No, the dictionary is correct. You are confusing the transitive verb "conserve" with the adjective "conserved" meaning kept intact or unchanged in this particular sentence. Admittedly, Webster doesn't do a good job of explaining it. Preserved is a similar word. Think of preserved strawberries, or the historical district with conserved 1890s houses.


Conserve can sometimes be intransitive as well, such as "We will need to conserve on water if this drought continues."



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