A description of 1600 French verbs shows that three types of control verbs should be distinguished in French: subject control, object control, and variable control verbs. The control properties of these verbs can be related to their syntactic or distributional characteristics. It appears that object control verbs and the different subclasses of variable control verbs are semantically coherent: each class of variable control verbs can be described as a particular type of transfer (promettre, garantir/ demander supplier/ proposer, offrir). These types of transfer are described by a highly elaborate semantic description that allows for deontically and temporally defined Source / Goal relations. This semantic approach also incorporates a description of the agentive properties necessary for a complement to qualify as a controller by the introduction of the notion of direct and indirect agentivity. Thus, we are able to explain why the subject of object control verbs cannot qualify as a controller, and how control shifts come about. On the theoretical side, this analysis shows that the GB distinction between obligatory and non obligatory control is not relevant, and that the empty element PRO is superfluous.