Transitive and Intransitive Verbs


Transitive and intransitive verbs are an integral part of English grammar. They play a crucial role not only in sentence structure but also in conveying the complete action by a subject. Understanding the difference between these two can significantly improve your writing style and clarity. This tutorial aims to help you understand what transitive and intransitive verbs are, provide examples, and explain how to correctly use them in sentences.

Definition of Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Transitive Verbs

A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object to express a complete thought. The word 'transitive' comes from the Latin verb 'transire' meaning to 'go across.' It encapsulates the idea that the action (verb) must move across to an object for the sentence to make sense.

Intransitive Verbs

On the other hand, an intransitive verb does not require a direct object to function. The verb stands alone, and the sentence still makes sense. The action doesn't need to pass over to an object because it is entirely confined within the subject.

Examples of Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Examples of Transitive Verbs

Here are a few examples of sentences with transitive verbs:

  • John reads the newspaper every morning. ('Reads' is the transitive verb and 'the newspaper' is the direct object.)
  • Catherine likes chocolate. ('Likes' is the transitive verb and 'chocolate' is the direct object.)
  • We bought the house. ('Bought' is the transitive verb and 'the house' is the direct object.)

Examples of Intransitive Verbs

Here are a few examples of sentences with intransitive verbs:

  • The baby slept. ('Slept' is the intransitive verb. Here, the action does not pass over to an object.)
  • My father arrived. ('Arrived' is the intransitive verb. The action is complete within the subject.)
  • Birds usually fly. ('Fly' is the intransitive verb. It does not require a direct object to make sense.)

Rules for Using Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Understanding when to use transitive and intransitive verbs can enhance your written and spoken English. Here are a few guidelines to help you use these verbs correctly:

Rule 1: Transitive verbs require a direct object

As we discussed, a transitive verb always needs a direct object. The object refers to the 'receiver' of the action. Without it, a sentence with a transitive verb will not make sense.

Rule 2: Intransitive verbs do not require a direct object

Intransitive verbs do not need an object for the sentence to make sense. Sometimes an additional detail (prepositional phrase, adverb, etc.) can follow an intransitive verb, but it is not considered a direct object.

Rule 3: Some verbs can be both transitive and intransitive

Some verbs can be either transitive or intransitive, depending on the context. For example, in the sentence "He runs every morning," 'runs' is an intransitive verb. But in the sentence "He runs a restaurant," 'runs' becomes a transitive verb because it transfers the action to the object 'a restaurant'.

Practice Exercises

Now that you understand the principles of transitive and intransitive verbs, it's time for some practice! Try to identify the verbs in the following sentences as transitive or intransitive:

  1. The sun shines.
  2. I ate an apple.
  3. The children play.
  4. She sent the letter.
  5. The dog barked loudly.


Understanding the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs can help you construct clear and effective sentences. This knowledge is particularly useful when you write academic papers, business correspondence, or any piece where clear communication is important. Remember, practice makes perfect, so take every opportunity to apply these concepts when speaking or writing in English!

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