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Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Transitive Verb
  • The transitive verb transfers the action of the verb from the doer to the receiver of the action.
  • In other words, a transitive verb takes the object
  • For example:
    • John killed a goat – Here, John is the doer of the action, killed is the action performed by the doer, and a goat is the receiver of the action
  • Sometimes, someone or something else other than the object receives the benefit of the action of the verb. In that case, the sentence is said to have an indirect object. For example:
    • John gave me his book – Here, book is the direct object of the sentence, whereas ‘me’ is the indirect object
Intransitive Verb
  • The intransitive verb does not take an object, or carry the action across to anything
  • The subject/verb by some psychological process may be said to absorb the action
  • Most often, the intransitive verb occurs between the subject and an adverbial or adverb equivalent
  • For example:
    • Jane wept bitterly.
    • Kiddie sleeps often.
    • Here, both ‘bitterly’ and ‘often’ refer to the subject as well as the verb
  • To determine whether a verb is transitive or intransitive, ask the question ‘what’ or ‘who’ after the verb and if the answer is a noun or its equivalent, the verb is used transitively. If the answer is zero or an adverb equivalent, the verb is used intransitively.
  • For example:
    • John killed a goat. — What did John kill? – A goat (noun), therefore the verb is transitive
    • The children played happily. — How did the children play? Happily (an adverb), therefore, the verb is intransitive.
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