Grammatical agent

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In traditional grammatical terminology, an agent, or agent-noun, is

  • in function, the 'doer', or 'performer, of an action. It is essentially the same thing as the Subject of a verb. In this sense of 'agent', there is a corollary word for the Object, 'the receiver of the action' - the patient. This is not in common use nowadays.
  • In form, an agent-word is a noun, usually formed directly from a verb, which denotes the 'person who does' the action denoted by the verb. Thus a 'doer' is the person who 'does', an 'opener' is a person (or thing) that 'opens', and a 'keeper' is a 'person (or thing) that keeps'.
Etymological note: the word agent is itself an agent-noun in form. It is the active participle (agens, agentem) of the Latin verb agere 'to do'.