Transitive and intransitive verbs in English

This post helps us understand transitive and intransitive verbs in English.

What is a transitive verb in English?

Transitive verb definition: a transitive verb is the main verb that has an object: a person or an object the action is done to. The object receives the action (transitive verb) and comes right after it.

Study the following examples using transitive verbs:

  • I love my friends. (object = my friends)
  • I will call the students in the morning. (object = the students)
  • He studied Botany for 3 years. (object = Botany)
  • Jon and I bought a house last week. (object = a house)

Notice the transitive verbs in the above examples (in bold) take an object after them (italicized).

Transitive verb explanation with examples
Transitive verb explanation with examples

A list of some transitive verbs in English

eat
drink
chew
cook
cut
study
learn
love
hate
watch
see
taste

teach
learn
write
note
erase
appreciate
hate
envy
praise
feed
cook
burn
hug
kiss
touch
seduce
coax
buy
sell
give
push
start
end
finish
A list of some transitive verbs

Examples of transitive verbs

VerbsExamplesobject
LoveEveryone loves her.her
HateI have never hated you.you
EatMy friend Monu can eat anything.anything
WashHe does not wash his clothes. his clothes
CutCould you cut these vegetables for me?these vegetables
DrinkI can’t drink this. It has alcohol in it.this
StartHe has started doing his job seriously.doing his job seriously
FinishDid you finish the task you were working on?the task
AppreciateWe appreciate your help.your help
LikeShe does not like to talk to strangers.to talk to strangers
SeduceNobody can seduce her.her
Note downCan you note down this address for me?this address
HugI always hug my parents before leaving for work.my parents
CookAshish can cook all types of cuisines.all types of cuisines
Transitive verbs examples

How to find a transitive verb?

To find out the transitive verb in a sentence is easy. Ask ‘what‘ or ‘whom‘ to the verb to find out the object of the verb. The answer to the question ‘what’ is always an object (non-living), and the answer to the question ‘whom’ is always a person.

If the verb answers any of the two questions, it is a transitive verb. But if it does not, it is not a transitive verb. Let’s take some examples and try this.

  • She is cooking pasta for dinner.

Cooking ‘what’ = pasta
Cooking ‘whom’ = no answer (she won’t a person)

Asking what to the verb gets us the object of the verb ‘cook’ and tells us that it is a transitive verb.

  • I did not invite Rashmi to the wedding.

Asking whom to the verb gets us its object: Rashmi. Whom did I not invite to the wedding? It is Rashmi (the object of the verb).

NOTE

A transitive verb can have two objects: the direct object and the indirect object. When a transitive verb has two objects, it answers both ‘what’ and ‘whom’.

Examples:

  • She gifted me a phone on my last birthday.

    gifted what = a phone (direct object)
    gifted whom = me (indirect object)
  • Could you pass Rohan this book?

    pass what = this book (direct object)
    pass whom = Rohan (indirect object)
  • I won’t tell them anything.

    tell what = anything (direct object)
    tell whom = them (indirect object)

Verbs that take two objects are called ditransitive verbs in English.

A list of transitive verbs that can take two objects

get
give
gift
teach
tell
buy
suggest
ask
show
read
order
buy
bring
hand
promise
throw
sing
serve
sell
owe

Examples:-

  • My father gifted me a car on my last birthday.

The verb gifted is ditransitive. It is followed by an indirect object (me) and a direct object (a car).
Gifted what = a car
Gifted whom = me

  • She gave him some chocolates.

She gave what = some chocolates (Direct object)
She gave some chocolates to whom = him (Indirect object)

  • Sing me a song, please!

sing ‘what’ = a song
sing ‘whom’ = me

What can be the object of a transitive verb?

This can help you identify and understand transitive verbs in a better way. The object of a transitive verb can be the following:

  1. Noun
  2. Pronoun
  3. Gerund
  4. Infinitive

Noun

Pronoun

  • I love it.
  • I love you.

Gerund

  • I love teaching English. (gerund phrase)
  • I hate eating boiled vegetables. (gerund phrase)
  • Do you love swimming? (gerund)

Infinitive

What is an intransitive verb?

An intransitive is opposite to a transitive verb. Unlike a transitive verb, an intransitive can’t or don’t take a direct object.

Examples:

  • I was sleeping when you called.

(Sleep is an intransitive verb; it can’t take an object. You can’t sleep something or somebody.)

  • Why did you smile at that guy?

(Smile is an intransitive verb; you don’t smile something or somebody. You can do that at somebody or something. That guy is the object of the preposition ‘at’ here.)

  • We laughed so hard during the match.

(You can’t laugh something or somebody. Laugh is an instransitive verb; it can’t be acted to a person or a thing.)

  • Why are you crying?

(You can’t cry a person or a thing. It is not an action verb that can have a direct object.)

Intransitive verb explanation with examples
Intransitive verb explanation with examples

A list of some intransitive verbs

sleep
cry
laugh
whine
sneeze
smile
fall
listen
subscribe
yell
shout
pose
stand
go
come
cough
scream
run
sit
swim
vomit
pee
defecate
sigh
pout
fume
panic
worry
look
jump
arrive
fly
relax
die

Most intransitive verbs can’t take an object. But there are verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive verbs.

A list of verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive verbs

VerbsTransitive verbsIntransitive verbs
MoveCan you move this to your room? The car was moving fast.
RunHe is running this business well.He was running fast in the park.
ChangeLet’s change the plan.He has changed. He is not the same person anymore.
CloseThey closed the shop early.The shop closes at 9 pm.
OpenDon’t open your eyes. I have something for you.The shop opens at 8 am.
StopCan you stop yelling at me?When the train stopped, we went outside and got something to eat.
StartStop her going there.The movie started very late.
DoWe did what we could.We did well in the game.
Verbs that transitive verbs and intransitive verb

Transitive vs Intransitive verbs

Both transitive and intransitive verbs are main verbs (usually action verbs) that function differently in a sentence. A transitive verb has a direct object that comes right after it, but an intransitive verb does not have a direct object. It either can’t have a direct object or does not have it in the sentence.

Transitive verb examples:

  • I have never kissed my girlfriend.
  • Jon is recording a video right now.
  • He could have killed you if he wanted to.
  • They envy me because of what I have achieved in life.

Intransitive verb examples:

  • He is pouting.
  • He sighed after the meeting ended.
  • Everyone panicked when we lost the keys.
  • He is not coming to the party.
Transitive and intransitive verb difference
Transitive and intransitive verb difference

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