"make it Happen!": Verbs as Markers of Agency Increase Message Effectiveness

Magdalena Formanowicz, Agnieszka Pietraszkiewicz, Janin Roessel, Caterina Suitner, Marta Witkowska, Anne Maass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Verbs may be attributed to higher agency than other grammatical categories. In Study 1, we confirmed this hypothesis with archival datasets comprising verbs (N = 950) and adjectives (N = 2115). We then investigated whether verbs (vs. adjectives) increase message effectiveness. In three experiments presenting potential NGOs (Studies 2 and 3) or corporate campaigns (Study 4) in verb or adjective form, we demonstrate the hypothesized relationship. Across studies, (overall N = 721) grammatical agency consistently increased message effectiveness. Semantic agency varied across contexts by either increasing (Study 2), not affecting (Study 3), or decreasing (Study 4) the effectiveness of the message. Overall, experiments provide insights in to the meta-semantic effects of verbs - demonstrating how grammar may influence communication outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-89
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • agency
  • Big Two
  • language
  • social grammar
  • verbs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of '"make it Happen!": Verbs as Markers of Agency Increase Message Effectiveness'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this