Glossary of Linguistic Terms

Patient As A Semantic Role


Patient is a semantic role that is usually the surface object of the verb in a sentence.


Some linguists define the patient and affected semantic roles in slightly different ways.

Longacre 1983 155–156 (following Chafe) defines a patient as the entity:

  • predicated with a state or location
  • undergoing a change of state or location, or
  • which is possessed, acquired or exchanged.

Larson 1984 199–203 defines the affected role as the:

  • thing that is affected by an event
  • person or thing that undergoes a process, or
  • person who experiences an event.

(Longacre 1983)

  • The entity predicated with a state or location:

    • The door is open.
    • John is at home.
  • The entity undergoing a change of state or location:

    • He opened the door.

    • The door swung open.
    • He threw the ball across the yard.

    • The ball rolled off the table.
  • The entity which is possessed, acquired, or exchanged:



    • John has a new book.

    • John bought a new book.

    • John gave Mary a new book 

(Larson 1984)

Affected semantic role

  • The thing that is affected by an event:

    • The dog ate the meat.

    • The tree fell on the house.

  • The person or thing that undergoes a process:

    • The water evaporated.
    • Mary became sad.
  • The person who experiences an event:

    • John smelled the smoke.
    • Mary saw the snake.


Also Known As: 

Glossary Hierarchy