Transitive and Intransitive verbs
Verbs can be classified in many ways. One way is to group them into transitive
and intransitive verbs
Transitive verbs are immediately followed by a direct object, whereas
intransitive verbs may have a direct object following a preposition.
Be carefull!! because passive forms and phrasal verbs also
have prepositions. Look at the seagull. Is the verb to hit
transitive or intransitive?
Grammar focus: - Transitive and intransitive verbs
For each of these verbs, decide whether they are:
Always transitive, Always intransitive or Could be either transitive or intransitive.
Make one or two correct sentences to show
whether the verb can be transitive or intransitive or both.
The Whole Set
Problems in identifying transitive and intransitive verb forms
Beware of the traps Here are some things that we should consider
when deciding whether a verb is transitive or intransitive.
- The verb is not really a verb in the sentence.
Sometimes adjectives can be formed by verb forms. Eg:
I was lost in my thoughts.
In this sentence , the words 'lost in ' do not form
an intransitive form of to lose because 'lost' is an adjective here!
(Form = (be) + adjective.
- Phrasal verbs can have the form VERB + PREPOSITION. When a phrasal verb uses a verb which is
normally only transitive, we may see the preposition and mistake it for an intransitive verb.
- Passive or intransitive verb form? We may read a passive sentence and see the preposition BY and
think that the verb is an intransitive form Verb + preposition
- Confusing phrasal verbs with verbs.
A transitive verb may appear as the main verb part of a phrasal verb but
that phrasal verb is another verb with another meaning and not an [I] intransitive form of the main verb.
Eg: I carried off a great victory. (Not an intransitive verb form of to carry but a transitive
verb to carry off (meaning to achieve).
- Sometimes a transitive verbs object is omitted or implied, making it appear to be intransitive.
That is when then direct object is not stated but is understood in the sentence.
Eg. I'm looking for a place to park (the car).
- Seeing a preposition 'to' after the first verb, when a verb follows a verb.
An intransitive verb has a preposition before the direct object
but sometimes a transitive verb can have a preposition before another verb. This is a verb plus verb form.
He started to read much too quickly.
(Here to read is another verb and so the whole phrase to read much too quickly
is what he started.
- Confusing the preposition by of a passive form with an intransitive verb form.
The cakes were burnt by the chef.
This is not an intransitive form, although the verb is again followed by a preposition.
A passive form usually indicates a transitive verb.
- Seeing a transitive or intransitive form of a verb and assuming that the verb can not take another form.
You may see that sleep on the bed. is intransitive and incorrectly think that no transitive form
of this verb exists. Remember that verbs can be transitive, intransitive or both
Dictionary notation for transitive and intransitive verbs
The Cambridge online dictionary and others, mark verbs as [T] transitive,
[I] intransitive or both. It can be easy to make examples of sentences
and see whether the form is transitive of intransitive,
but it can also be easy to miss the fact that a verb may have a particular form.
This can be a problem for those verbs which can be both transitive and intransitive according to the usage.
Transitive verbs without objects
Sometimes transitive verbs can have their objects left out
because the meaning is obvious from the context.
Which of the underlined objects in these sentences can be omitted?
- I can't find anywhere to park the car.
- He really enjoys cooking bard.
- They found the cat under the stairs.
- She's been smoking cigarettes for years.
- He slowly and carefully opened the briefcase.
Example sentences Transitive and Intransitive verbs
- burn (verb [T]) The queen of hearts, burnt the tarts.
- start [T] Start the car. Start the day.
When do you start your course/your new job?
- start [I]
Could you start by weeding the garden for me?
Can you start on Monday? [I]
- want (verb [T]) I want a cake.
- happen (verb [I]) It can happen to anyone.
What's happening there? (there ADVERB, no direct object, so this is an intransitive verb.)
It happened yesterday. It happened ON Thursday. It happened TO me.
- surprise (verb [T]) I surprised him. [T].
- surprise (verb [I]) I was surprised by that film. [I]
- surprise (verb [I])
You will be surprised athow quickly you can drive in this car.
I'm surprised to see you here.
- eat (verb [T,I])
- He was eaten by a lion. (passive ,so transitive)
- Would you please eat on the table. [I]
- We usually eat at seven o'clock.
- shut (verb [T])
- Shut the door! [T]
- Shut out the dogs. [I] exclude/lock out.
- warn (verb [T,I])
He was warned not to go there. [T]
He was warned (about/against/of/off) that. [I]
- explain (verb [T]) Explain something to somebody. Can you explain (that) to me [T]
- wake (verb [T])
- He was woken by a loud noise. [T-passive]
- Wake me at ten o'clock. [T]
- I woke up with a headache.
- make (verb [T])
- Make the beds. [T]
- It is made of wood. [I]
- fall (verb [I])
- Fall by the wayside. [I]
- Fall over/on/off/into/through/across [I]
- spoil (verb [T])
He spoilt the child. [T]
Too many cooks spoil the broth. (old proverb - opposite in meaning to 'Many hands make light work!'.
- To park. [T]
- To balance
I balanced on the high wire [I]
I balanced a plate on a mans head. [T]
- To give: I gave him the book. I gave the book to him. (passive from [T])
- To suggest: I suggested that he bought some clothes. I suggested TO him that he buys some new clothes.
- Implication NOUN imply (verb)
- park [I or T] I'm going to park. I'm going to park on the corner of the street.
park verb [I or T] to put a vehicle in a place where it can stay for a period of time,
usually while you leave it Where have you parked? Just park your car in the driveway.
[T + adverb or preposition]
informal to put yourself or something in a particular place for a long time,
often annoying other people [R] He parked himself in front of the TV and stayed there all afternoon.
She's parked an enormous pile of papers on my desk and I haven't a clue what to do with them. I am going to park.
- eat [T] I ate some bread [T]
- eat [I] I ate until I felt full.
- sleep [I] I slept ON a bench. I slept well. [I]
- Sleep [?] I slept the night with my friend.
- Sleep [T] If a vehicle, tent, etc. sleeps a particular number of people,
it provides enough space or beds for that number of people to be able to sleep in it
This caravan sleeps four (people) comfortably.
- Shut [T]
please shut the gate. I've got a surprise for you! Shut your eyes tightly and hold out your hand.
Mary shut her book and put it down on the table.
- Shut [??]
Shut off the water tap. to (cause to) close something.
- Explain [I or T] form=explain something (Direct OBJ) TO Somebody.
I'll be happy to explain (that).
The teacher explained the rules to the children.
Our guide explained where the cathedral was. (where the cathedral was = fact = noun = object)
He explained how the machine worked. (information=noun=direct object)
please could you explain why you're so late?
She explained that she was going to stay with her sister.
"Someone must have hit the wrong button," an official explained.
Molly asked the teacher if she could explain herself a bit more clearly (= say more clearly what she meant).
No one has been able to explain (= give the reason for) the accident.
- Explain [I]
- Wake [I] I woke (up) with a headache.
- Wake [I] Wake me at six.
- Fall [I]
I fell over my dog. I fell ON the bed. I fell through the ceiling. I fell out of the car. ...
Click for a new verb, then make sentences to show whether the verb can be transitive, intransitive or both.
Show your sentence to the other students in the class. Is your sentence correct?
Use the 'It/me' test.
Try the words 'it' and 'me' directly following the verb.
eg: 'Bake it'
= Transitive form
= Intransitive (Wait FOR it)
Now put the following verbs with their usual prepositions.
in, for, with, from, on, to.
Make a sentence collocating the verb with the preposition and an appropriate noun or adverb.
Choose six of the verb and preposition combinations above that
you are less confident about using correctly.
Make one sentence for each to demonstrate you
understand their meaning.
Try and make the sentences true about yourself where possible.
EXAMPLE: I hope to specialise in veterinary science after I leave school.
When you finish the exercise.
Click each verb to see some examples to check you answers.