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Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Learning English with The AN and freSy

A verb can be explained as transitive or intransitive based on the requirement of an object to express a complete thought. A transitive verb only makes sense if it exerts its action on an object. Whereas, an intransitive verb makes sense without one.

Transitive Verbs

Transitive verbs are verbs that demand objects. The sentence that a transitive verb inhabits will not seem complete without an object. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a transitive verb means a verb ‘having or needing an object.’ The Collins Dictionary explains a transitive verb as a verb accompanied by a direct object and from which a passive can be formed, such as deny, rectify, or elect. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary also provides a similar definition, i.e., a verb characterized by having or containing a direct object.

Example of Transitive Verbs

i) Please give milk.

In this sentence, the verb ‘give’ is transitive; its object is milk, which is being given. So, this verb cannot function without an object.

ii) Please give.

In this sentence, the question arises – give what or who? The sentence demands an object to be meaningful.

iii) The women carry water to their village.

iv) Jennifer threw the laptop.

v) Shahana delivered the letters.

vi) Could you call my parents?

In all the above sentences, each of the verbs has objects that complete its actions. If the objects were removed, the sentence would be illogical and the readers would have several questions; for eg., Shahana delivered, but delivered what?

Intransitive Verbs

An intransitive verb is just the opposite of a transitive verb. These verbs do not require an object to act upon. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says that an intransitive verb is a verb characterized by not having or containing a direct object. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an intransitive verb means a verb ‘having or needing no object.’ According to the Collins Dictionary, an intransitive verb indicates a complete action without being paired with a direct object.

Examples of Intransitive Verbs

i) All the boys laughed.

ii) The pet ran away.

iii) The chorus of her friends sang.

iv) Rainbow is coming.

In all the above sentences, none of these verbs require an object to make a meaningful sentence. Some imperative forms of verbs can frame understandable one-word sentences. For eg.,

- Run!

- Dance!

Some English verbs can only be intransitive; i.e., they will never make sense coupled with an object. Some examples of intransitive-only verbs are- arrive and die. To be more specific, you can’t arrive something, and you certainly can’t die something; it is impossible for an object to follow these verbs.

Transitive Verbs Vs. Intransitive Verbs

S. No. Transitive Verbs Intransitive Verbs
1 Require an object to make a meaningful sentence. Does not require an object to make a meaningful sentence or make sense of the action being referred to.
2 These verbs are followed by a direct object or an indirect object. These verbs are followed by either an adjunct or a complement.
3 Transitive verbs are used in sentences that follow the pattern of Sub+Verb+Obj. Intransitive verbs are usually used in sentences that follow the pattern of Sub+Verb/Sub+Verb+Complement.
4 A sentence using a transitive verb can be changed into a passive voice. A sentence using an intransitive verb cannot be changed into a passive voice.
5 Eg.,
i) The lion chased the deer. (Sub+Verb+Obj)
ii) The teacher wrote the syllabus. (Sub+Verb+Obj)
Eg.,
i) The old lady felt dizzy.
(Sub+Verb+Complement)
ii) The baby is crying.
(Sub+Verb)

Phrasal Verbs and Transitivity

Phrasal verbs can also be divided into transitive or intransitive.

  • Candy has decided to give up spicy food while she diets.
  • I hope Candy doesn’t give up.

In the above sentences, ‘give up’ is just one of many phrasal verbs and it can be transitive or intransitive. The meaning will be changed depending on whether ‘give up’ is used with an object or not. In the first sentence, ‘give up’ means ‘to forgo something,’ whereas, in the second sentence, it means ‘to stop trying.’

  • Our flight will take off in forty minutes.
  • Marie always takes off her shoes on a long flight.

In the first sentence, ‘take off’ means ‘to leave the ground,’ whereas, in the second sentence, it means ‘to remove.’

Verbs can be Transitive or Intransitive

Some verbs can be used as both transitive and intransitive, depending on their usage and the situation. In some instances, such a verb may require an object, while in others, it may not require an object. To determine whether the verb is being used transitively or intransitively, you should understand whether the verb has an object. If we say- He sings./He leaves. We should ask- Does he sing something? Does he leave something? If the answer is yes, the verb is transitive.

For example:

Resume
  • They will resume the meeting after the break. (transitive)
  • The meeting resumed after the break. (intransitive)
Play
  • Five of the students play the violin. (transitive)
  • The students will play the violin today. (intransitive)
Return
  • Rohan returned the assignment book to the library. (transitive)
  • The students returned to school after the summer break. (intransitive)
Grow
  • I grow onions in my garden. (transitive)
  • My niece is growing quickly. (intransitive)

Examples of Transitive and Intransitive Verbs Used in Sentences

Transitive Verbs:

i) The council members will raise funds for the new project.

ii) Danny gave the gift to his brother.

iii) The health instructor addressed the audience’s question.

iv) Can you bring your Science textbook to the group study?

v) Merry borrowed the fiction book from her friend because she forgot her copy.

Intransitive Verbs:

i) My grandfather’s health deteriorated very rapidly.

ii) May I come here?

iii) Ahaan voted in the municipal election.

iv) Zakir laughed.

v) The employees concluded the meeting.

Practice Questions – Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Following are some practice questions:

  1. Vinny advised me to consult a gynecologist.
  2. Sheena received your parcel in the morning.
  3. Mike has changed a lot since he got married.
  4. Suddenly the old man woke up.
  5. Let’s discuss your assignment.
  6. The wind was blowing strongly.
  7. My parents purchased a new house.
  8. Metals expand on heating.
  9. Sheryn bought a car for her mother.
  10. The train stopped abruptly.
Answers:
  1. Transitive
  2. Transitive
  3. Intransitive
  4. Intransitive
  5. Transitive
  6. Intransitive
  7. Transitive
  8. Transitive
  9. Transitive
  10. Transitive

Frequently Asked Questions on Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Q1. What is a Transitive Verb?

Ans. Already explained in the article.

Q2. What is an Intransitive Verb?

Ans. Already explained in the article.

Q3. What is the Difference between Transitive and Intransitive Verbs?

Ans. Already described above in the article.

Q4. Give some examples of Transitive and Intransitive Verbs used in a sentence.

Ans.

(a) Jenny came home at the night. (Intransitive

(b) The flight will take off in the next thirty minutes. (Intransitive)

(c) Shelly always carries her earphones while travelling. (Transitive)

(d) Isha loved her new bike. (Transitive)

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