Verbs That Don’t Work in Language of Performance

Consider use of the verb pay in the following extract from EDGAR:

In consideration for the conveyance of the Assets to Buyer, Buyer hereby pays to Seller consideration (the “Purchase Price”) …

You can’t pay someone just by saying so. As linguists would say, pay cannot be used performatively. In other words, pay doesn’t work in language of performance.

Way more verbs cannot be used performatively than can: clean, eat, drive, and so on. But it’s rare that you encounter a nonperformative verb used in language of performance. In fact, the above example is the only one I can think of at the moment.

Can you think of any others?

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.