A deponent verb is one which, in describing what is done, employs the passive voice to convey what appears to be an active idea. The exact definition of what things are active and what passive is a little subjective, and could be seen as depending on the language in which the speaker thinks, and in which he or she is speaking at present. An active statement would be one like 'Jane nodes', while a passive one would be something like 'Fred is appalled at the lack of detail in this node'. In a passive verb, the meaning is active, but the form is passive. Examples:

  • For a French speaker of English, the verb 'to be born' is deponent, since in French the verb naître is active, as in Napoléon est né en Corse. which translates into the English passive voice sentence 'Napoleon was born in Corsica.' (The active sentence 'Napoleon came from Corsica' would be 'Napoléon est venu de Corse', which is also active.)
  • For an English speaker of Latin, the verb pati, to suffer, is deponent. So the active voice English sentence 'He suffered under Pontius Pilate' is equivalent to the Latin 'Sub Pontio Pilato passus est', which is passive. (That's from the Nicene Creed; the preceding phrase, 'He was crucified', is 'Crucifixus est' in Latin - both passive.)
  • For an English speaker of Swedish, the verb hoppas, to hope, is deponent. The active English sentence 'I hope it all goes well' would be rendered into Swedish as 'Jag hoppas att allt går bra', which is passive in form. ('I think it is all going well' would be 'Jag tänker att allt går bra' - both active.)