The present study investigated whether children's representations of morphosyntactic information are abstract enough to guide early verb learning. Using an infant-controlled habituation paradigm with a switch design, Japanese-speaking children aged 1 ; 8 were habituated to two different events in which an object was engaging in an action. Each event was paired with a novel word embedded in a single intransitive verb sentence frame. The results indicated that only 40% of the children were able to map a novel verb onto the action when the mapping task was complex. However, by simplifying the mapping task, 88% of the children succeeded in verb–action mapping. There were no differences in perceptual salience between the agent and action switches in the task. These results provide strong evidence that Japanese-speaking children aged 1 ; 8 are able to use an intransitive verb sentence frame to guide early verb learning unless the mapping task consumes too much of their cognitive resources.