In syntax, a transitive verb is a verb that requires both a direct subject and one or moreobjects. A transitive verb has two characteristics. First, it is an action verb, expressing a doable activity like kick, want, paint, write, eat, clean, etc. Second, it must have adirect object, something or someone who receives the action of the verb. Some examples of sentences with transitive verbs:
- Harry sees Adam. (Adam is the direct object of “sees”)
- You lifted the bag. (bag is the direct object of “lifted”)
- I punished you. (you is the direct object of “punished”)
- I give you the book. (book is the direct object of “give” and “you” is the non-prepositional indirect object of “give”)
- John traded Jane an apple for an orange. (“Jane”, “apple”, and “orange” are all objects of “traded”)
Those transitive verbs that are able to take both a direct object and an indirect object are called ditransitive; an example is the verb give above. Verbs that require a single object are called monotransitive. There are a few verbs, like “traded” above, that maybe called “tritransitive”.
An intransitive verb has two characteristics. First, it is an action verb, expressing a doable activity like arrive, go, lie, sneeze, sit, die, etc. Second, unlike a transitive verb, it will not have a direct object receiving the action. In grammar, an intransitive verb does not take an object. In more technical terms, an intransitive verb has only one argument(its subject), and hence has a valency of one. For example, in English, the verbs sleep, complain and die, are intransitive.
Some examples of sentences with intransitive verbs:
- Harry will not sleep until sunset. (sleep has no object)
- You complain too much. (complain has no object)
- He died on Saturday. (die has no object)
Many verbs can also be both transitive and intransitive. An action verb with a direct object is transitive while an action verb with no direct object is intransitive. Some verbs, such as arrive, go, lie, sneeze, sit, and die, are always intransitive; it is impossible for a direct object to follow.
Other action verbs, however, can be transitive or intransitive, depending on what follows in the sentence.
- Because of blood sugar problems, Rosa always eats before leaving for school. Eats = intransitive verb.
- If there is no leftover pizza, Rosa usually eats a whole-grain cereal. Eats = transitive verb; cereal = direct object.
- During cross-country practice, Damien runs over hills, through fields, across the river, and along the highway. Runs = intransitive verb.
- In the spring, Damien will run his first marathon. Will run = transitive verb; marathon = direct object.