From IFWiki

"Guess-the-verb" (sometimes abbreviated as GTV) is the name of a particular fault in game design where although the player has correctly guessed what he is meant to do, the game's parser does not understand unless he uses a particular and possibly non-obvious way to phrase the command. For example, if there is a crate to be opened with a crowbar and the only way to open it is to "pry crate with crowbar", other actions like "open crate with crowbar" give a misleading response.

Some games, such as The Edifice (Lucian Smith, 1997, Z-code) and Ad Verbum (Nick Montfort, 2002, Z-code) intentionally include guess-the-verb puzzles to good effect but in contexts where the puzzles are explicitly about language.


  • Plenty of Beta-testing.
  • A good thesaurus can also come in handy.
  • Play plenty of IF to get a feel for the sort of verbs considered standard - which may not always be the standard library ones.
  • When coding synonyms, make them actual synonyms instead of giving responses along the lines of 'Try INSCRIBE rather than WRITE.' It's just polite.
  • Include a special verbs list in your Help and/or About menus. If these verbs are going to be used a lot, draw attention to those menus in the banner text.

Game homages