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Short cuts : /library/English/Grammar/parts-of-speech/verbs/verbs-transitive
Last Updated October 29, 2021, 10:41 pm
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What is a transitive verb?

ALT IMG transitive verbs
Transitive verbs perform an action on something. This is called the 'direct object' of the verb. Intransitive verbs may have an indirect object. The indirect object is the person or thing for whom the action was performed.

Transitive Examples

  1. Read the book. (The book is the direct object.)
  2. Drive the car (The car is being driven)
  3. Tell the boy (The boy is the direct object)

Intransitive Examples

  1. Sit on the floor (The floor is the object for which the action was performed. - The floor didn't sit)
  2. Wait for a bus. (The bus is definitely not the direct object of waiting. The bus is not affected in any way by our action of waiting.

Tell and Speak

Speak to him. (Speaking focuses on the action from the point of view of the speaker. Tell him (Tell focuses much more on the action of informing the other person..

Some verbs with transitive and intransitive forms

To balance

  1. I balanced on the high wire. (There is no direct object - The high wire is the indirect object on the high wire The preposition is used because the high wire was not the object of the action of balancing.
  2. I balanced a plate on my head. (This time the plate is clearly the direct object of the action.

To protest

This verb is usually intransitive. Eg: I protested against that decision. (I protested but did not perform an action on the decision) It can also have transitive forms. He protested his innocence "I'm innocent!!" - Here the innocence is having something done to it and is the direct object of the protest. We could say that the protest was aimed at his innocence.
Depending on the type of object they take, verbs may be transitive, intransitive, or linking. The meaning of a transitive verb is incomplete without a direct object, although the direct object may be implied but not stated. Lets look at some examples:

AmE, permits "protest" as a transitive verb in sentences such as "She protested the cuts". In English we would use contested this way because if you contest something, you direct the action at that direct object, in this case the cuts, but if you protest against the cuts the cuts dont have the feeling of having any action performed on them.

  1. The shelf holds.
    Incomplete without a direct object as "to hold" is a [T] transitive verb.
  2. The shelf holds three books and a vase of flowers.
    (The direct object can have articles a/an/the/three and immediately follows the verb)
  3. The committee named.
    (Named who? Named what? We can't imply this. To name is [T]
  4. The committee named a new chairperson.
    Now this is a complete sentence
  5. The child broke.
    To break should be transitive here in this context [T]
  6. The child broke the plate.
A TRANSITIVE verb is an action verb. It is usually followed by a word or phrase which answers the questions: WHOM? WHAT?

An INTRANSITIVE verb is an action verb. It is usually followed by a word or phrase which answers the questions: WHY? WHEN? WHERE? or HOW?

Transitive or Intransitive - Things to consider

  1. If there is a direct object (including the determiners and predeterminers) following the verb then the verb is transitive [T].
    Example: He gave such a big book to that man. (Such a big book = Direct object including determiners) that man = the indirect object.
  2. If the direct object is separated from the main verb by a preposition between the main verb and the direct object then the main verb is intransitive [I].
    Example: I fell off my chair.
  3. When there is no direct object in the sentence we must first decide whether an object is implied or whether there really is no direct object. If we realise that there could be an implied direct object then the verb is transitive but if there really is no direct object, the verb is intransitive.
    Examples: Which of these may have an implied direct object? If you can write these sentences again with the implied direct object added, without changing the meaning, then the verb is a transitive [T] verb.
    1. I decided to park.
    2. My mother cooks for us on Sundays.
    3. As I walked down the road I fell.
    Don't confuse verbs with phrasal verbs. Check the definition of a phrasal verb. If a preposition follows a verb, it does not mean that we have a phrasal verb. Which of the following verbs are intransitive verbs and which are true phrasal verbs?
    1. depend on me.
    2. put out the fire.
    3. Fall out of a tree
    4. I Fell out with my friends.

Look at these sentences. See how the direct object is preceeded by a preposition for transitive verbs. Which sentences are transitive with an implied direct object? How can we tell the difference between these and intransitive verbs without any direct object? Can you feel when there is an implied direct object?

Transitive verbs (Marked as [T] take a direct object. (usually an object immediately after the verb)
Intransitive verbs (Marked as [I]( can't take a direct object and are often followed by a preposition and an object.
There are some verbs which take both forms.

Intransitive verbs relate to prepositions

Intransitive verbs usually have a preposition, which follows the verb and precedes the object. Check the common verb / preposition pairs.

  1. The postman delivered the parcel next door.
  2. Bill calls his friends on Saturdays.
  3. The children played in the evening.
  4. The Lions lost their last game.
  5. My mother usually makes coffee in the afternoon.
  6. The players celebrated last week.
  7. Michael went to the beach last Monday.
  8. They stood in line for hours waiting for the doors to open
  9. Rachel inherited one million pounds.
  10. He showed us his stamp collection.
  11. The teacher arrived because it was time for the class to begin.
  12. Richard forgot his homework at home.
  13. When will you teach us the new vocabulary
  14. Tell her your story.
  15. The manager offered his employees a pay rise.

Transitive verb forms (Can take a passive form)

  1. I invited him to the party.
  2. I lost the game
  3. Something happened to me. [I]
  4. The fire happened one year ago.
  5. Send a letter to my mother.
  6. The robbers had just opened the safe when they were surprised by the police. (passive) [T]
  7. The police surprised the robbers when they had just opened the safe.
  8. I would like to eat some fruit. [T]
  9. The fruit was eaten by me. passive (y)
  10. I shut the door.
  11. The door was shut by me [T]
  12. I explained the problem to my boss [T] Direct and indirect object
  13. Could you wake me at six?
  14. I was woken at six by my brother. passive [T]
  15. usually I wake at six.
  16. I warned him not to do that. [T]
  17. He was warned not to do that. passive
  18. I made the bread.

Intransitive verb forms

  1. I sat ON the chair. (n)
  2. Send for a Doctor.
  3. I was warned of fog by the weather forecast
  4. I slept like a log. [I]

Decide on the verb form

  1. I want to go
  2. Will you start please.

Correct these mistakes

  1. Could you describe me this picture?
  2. please explain me how can I do this? (Two mistakes)

Test Yourself on Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Practice Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Check the revision notes and the dictionary before deciding whether each verb is transitive [T], intransitive [I], or both [T][I]
The words chosen for this exercise have often been used in advanced exams.

The Difference Between Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
My sister baked the cake.
My father shouted.
What's the difference between the verbs? baked, shouted) in the way these verbs are used in these sentences? How are these two verbs grammatically different?
We can see that the first verb, baked, has another word after it, but the second verb, shouted, does not. All verbs in English can be grouped in a number of ways. One verb grouping that we all know already is regular and irregular. Here we are looking at another way of grouping verbs. All verbs in English can be divided into those that can be directly followed by a noun or noun phrase. and those that do not have to have any noun phrase (implied or otherwise) after them.

We will see later that this rule is not so simple. There are some problems which we should learn about.

We call these two groups Transitive and Intransitive verbs. nce, the word that comes after the verb, window, is the object of the verb. We say that window is the object because it receives the action of the verb. All objects of verbs receive the action of the verb.
Here are some more examples of transitive verbs with their objects:

  • I sold some books.
  • I took the bus.
  • I bought a radio.
  • I understood her question.
  • I wrote a letter.

When a verb has an object that receives the action of the verb, we say that the verb is transitive. Transitive verbs are more common on the TOEFL than intransitive verbs, but many students get confused about intransitive verbs.
Let's look at the other kind of verb now.

Intransitive Verbs

My father shouted.
We can see in this sentence that there is no word after shouted. In other words, there is no object for the word, so there is no noun to receive the action of the word. Think about it--what could we say? My father shouted something. Is there a noun that we could use after shouted? We could probably think of one or two nouns, like tears, or even, good-bye, but normally, we do not use the verb cry with an object.
In this case we say that this verb is intransitive because it does not have an object after it.
Here are some more examples of intransitive verbs:

  • I slept.
  • I coughed.
  • The glass fell.
  • My cat ran.
  • The sun rose.

We should notice that in each case, the subject is doing the action of the verb and nothing receives the action.

Advice for exams

It is extremely important to be able to understand whether a verb is transitive or intransitive.
For many verbs in class, if your teacher thinks that the verb is hard to understand, we will ask something like this:
T: Do we cry or do we cry something?
Then, the student should respond something like this:
S: Just cry.
In this case, we would say that cry is intransitive.
BE CAREFUL!!
One reason that understanding this point is so important is that it is very easy to become confused about whether a verb is transitive or intransitive. Consider the following example:
I went to the store yesterday.
Is went transitive or intransitive?
Many people, including native speakers, will tell you that went is transitive since we have many words after went. However:
To say that went is transitive would be a BIG mistake!!
So, what are all those other words after went? Well, first of all, to the store is a prepositional phrase. Second, yesterday is an adverb.
One more thing: just to make life easier, instead of saying transitive and intransitive all the time, we will say vi (since that's what most dictionaries say) if the verb is intransitive and vt (again, since that's what most dictionaries say) if the verb is transitive.
Trust TestMagic: This is extremely important!! We will do some exercises on this point a little bit later.

Summary of Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

There are some important exceptions to these rules and we will talk about them later. However, for now, we have enough information to do some practice.

Number Verb [T] or [I]? Verb
1. run
2. live
3. throw
4. sell
5. eat
6. result
7. evolve
8. research
9. happen
10. feed
11. exist
12. result
13. follow
14. make
15. take place
16. occur
17. exist
18. happen
19. dwell
20. evolve
21. result
22. send
23. invent
24. fly
25. find
Show Transitive & intransitive Verbs
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