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Last updated at 16:06 BST, Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Using 'open'

The bookshop opens at 11am

The bookshop opens at 11am

A question from Andrei in Russia:
Why do you say ‘door (or shop) open but not ‘is opened’? A shop or door can not open itself but can BE OPENED by somebody.

Trudi Faulkner-Petrova answers

Click below to hear the answer:

Hello there Andrei. Thanks for your question.

I think the problem here is that you’re confusing verbs and adjectives.

If I say, 'The door is open' or ‘door open’ - here the word ‘open’ is an adjective, rather like saying the door is big, the door is green or the door is wide. All of them are adjectives describing the door. So in the phrase ‘shop open’, ‘open’ is an adjective describing the shop.

Whereas if I say this: 'The door opened' or 'The door has been opened' - then I’m using the verb ‘to open’. As I’m sure you know, using the verb refers to an action and using the adjective refers to a state. So first you open the door (which is a verb) and then the door is open (which is an adjective).

You know, some verbs in English can be used transitively and intransitively. To explain further, a verb is transitive when it has an object. So let’s look at some transitive uses of ‘open’ then:

She opened her mouth.
She opened the conservatory door.

‘Open’ can also be used intransitively, which means there is no object, and here are a couple of examples:

Her mouth opened.
The gate opened.

So, looking at the example you asked about, which is ‘the shop opens at 9am’, the use of the verb ‘open‘ here is intransitive and intransitive verbs can’t be used with the passive voice.

When we use ‘open’ regarding shops and restaurants, it means to start business every day and to let customers in at a particular time. In this case, ‘open’ is intransitive. Here are some examples:

What time does the bank open?
The butcher opens early on Fridays.
The bookshop opens at 11am.

If you say something like this: 'The shop was opened by the Mayor' - then you are describing the first time a shop opens to the public, its opening ceremony if you like, when it first starts operating. In the example I just gave the Mayor officially declares the shop open and trading, so the use of ‘open’ here is transitive.

With all that talk of ‘open’, I’ll ‘close’ my talk here. All the best!

About Trudi Faulkner-Petrova

Trudi Faulkner-Petrova

Trudi Faulkner-Petrova has a BA (Hons) in English, Bsc. in Psychology and Cert.TESOL. She has been teaching EFL, EAP and Business English in international schools, businesses and universities in Beijing over the last 10 years. Currently, she is a freelance tutor for ESOL, English Literature, SAT/TOEFL preparation and also works for the British Council as an IELTS and BULATS examiner. She is in the final year of studies for an Msc. in Psychology.


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