Saturday, October 9, 2010

Verbs: Intransitive vs. Transitive


Todd writes:
Aaaaaargh! I don't understand transitive and intransitive verbs. I especially don't understand how sometimes the same verb can be one and sometimes the other. Please explain. I need to get at least an 86 on the quiz next week. Thanks!
Todd, you're in major luck. Yesterday I received a question from Lily about direct and indirect objects, and you should read that post first. After all, before you can ace transitive and intransitive verbs, you need to know how to spot a direct object.  

Quick rules:  
  • Transitive verbs are action verbs that require a direct object. The verb's action is transferred directly to the object, which can be a noun, pronoun, phrase, or clause.
  • Find the direct object by asking Subject + Verb + What/Whom? My dad is driving Fred to his friend's house. My dad is driving whom? Fred. That's the direct object. Therefore, drive is a transitive verb.
  • Intransitive verbs don't require a direct object. My dad goes to work every morning. My dad goes what or whom? That doesn't make sense, so there is no direct object. Therefore, go is an intransitive verb. [In this sentence, the natural question is: My dad goes where? Where questions are answered by prepositional phrases, such as 'to work.']

The tricky part: Many verbs can be either transitive or intransitive, depending on context.
  1. After we eat at my house, we can go outside. (intransitive)
    After we eat our sandwiches, we can go outside. (transitive)
  2. The truck runs on diesel gasoline. (intransitive)
    My uncle runs a restaurant. (transitive)
  3. I'm reading. (intransitive)
    I'm reading an article in TIME magazine about sharks. (transitive)

Quick tip: Sentences written in the passive voice always contain a transitive verb. It makes sense when you think about it. When the writer uses the passive voice, the subject is hidden and the focus is on the direct object. Break it down using the same Subject + Verb + What/Whom? formula, and fill in the missing subject.
  1. Rachel was given detention. [The teacher] gave what? Detention (direct object). To whom? Rachel (indirect object). Since there is a direct object, give is a transitive verb.
  2. The ball was hit past third base. [The batter] hit what? The ball (direct object). To/For whom? We don't know (no indirect object). Since there is a direct object, hit is a transitive verb.

57 comments:

  1. This quick explanation helped me understand the nature of passive constructions. The nugget about passive voice requiring a transitive verb was unique--at least, this is the first time I've read about it.

    Thanks, Tom

    ReplyDelete
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    1. FUCK YOU YOU SON OF A BITCH

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    2. That is so wrong! You left out a comma between the first and second "you".

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    3. WHO THE FUCK IS THIS STUPID SON OF A BITCH ASS MOTHER FUCKER

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    4. I'm your mother

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    5. im yoy dady u lil bitche

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    6. Hello. I speak spanish.

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    7. I'M NOT YO DADDY I'M YO GRANDPA

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    8. you a fuck booty bitch

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    9. wowwww ^ people these days smh

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    10. BE MY DADDY BABY

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    11. LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!! OMG...

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    12. what is worked transitive or intransitive

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    13. i need to know now plz

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  2. Thanks for posting, I'm currently working my way through some material and find myself a bit confused on this matter.

    Am I to understand that a verb is only ever really transitive or intransitive within the context of a sentence? The material I'm reading describes verbs as either being permanently one or the other and lists examples of both.

    According to my material a transitive verb is a verb that must be able to be followed by an object but doesn't have to be. It goes on to show examples of transitive verbs being used in an intransitive context. For example, 'She cooks'. 'Cook' could have an object following it if needed but it certainly doesn't have to have one. Does this make 'cook' an intransitive verb in this instance or a transitive verb being used in an intransitive context? Or as you mention is 'cook' another example that can be in both camps in which case I feel that uniquely transitive verbs would be in the minority.

    In your quick rules you mention that transitive verbs 'require' a direct object and you use the example of 'drive', yet in the material that I'm reading in order to teach this to students it defines 'drive' exclusively as an intransitive verb thus leading to more confusion on my part.

    Intransitive: He drives ('Does he drive?','He Drives.')

    Transitive: He drives a car.

    Most verbs are therefore neither permanently transitive or intransitive, it just depends on the context in which they are used right?
    So does a transitive verb have to be followed by a direct object or the fact that it can have a direct object make it transitive.

    Is there such a thing as a transitive verb in an intransitive sentence? It looks more and more like context is everything.

    Thanks, Paul

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    Replies
    1. Oh, snap! I shouldn't have used 'drive' as an example, since it can be either transitive or intransitive. Great catch! Thanks!

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  3. i had difficulties to understand the two terms that is intransitive and transitive verbs but know i can boast and explain to others with clarity.Thanks for this good explanation.


    PETER MCFOO @MANDA ZAMBIA

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  4. I have a short explanation:
    A Transitive Verb has a receiver and a Transitive verb answers the questions "what and whom"
    Example:
    He ate a large pizza
    (He ate what? pizza)
    An Intransitive verb has no receiver and an intransitive verb answers the questions: "How,when nd where"
    Example:
    He sings everyday
    (He sings when? everyday)

    Here is another example:
    He sang in the hall.
    (he sang where? at the hall)
    He sang a song.
    (he sang what? a song)

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    Replies
    1. Wow, Thank you very much! This helped out a LOT!

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    2. oh........now I understand it more

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    3. He sang a song has an intransitive verb within. A song is the direct object. Be careful.

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    4. Did he eat? Yes, he did.

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  5. thanks for the help i think i got -6

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  6. It is really useful tip for me to read. I have learn a lot from this explanation. However, It seems to be imprecise to understand about Indirect object or Indirect object. If possible I would suggest you to explain me a bit more about this.

    Anyway, thank you very much for your precious lesson.

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  7. Thanks for the help! We will se if it helped me on my test

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  8. Thanks all so much!

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  9. "Quick tip: Sentences written in the passive voice always contain a transitive verb. It makes sense when you think about it. When the writer uses the passive voice, the subject is hidden and the focus is on the direct object. Break it down using the same Subject + Verb + What/Whom? formula, and fill in the missing subject. "

    Quick tip: The above quick tip is absolutely wrong. Sentences written in the passive voice use intransitive verbs, the sentence is considered passive because the verb only acts upon the subject of the sentence and does not transfer any sort of action towards a direct object, since there is no direct object.

    I made a mistake. Subject, verb, direct object. Not in the passive voice.

    Mistakes were made. Subject, verb, no direct object. Passive voice.

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    1. I think you're confusing the subject and object. The object is what 'receives' the action. In passive sentences the object comes before the verb; in your example 'mistake' / 'mistakes' are the objects; in the passive voice the subject (who does the action) is not stated, or is added after the verb + 'by' (eg 'Mistakes were made by someone'), so the original "Quick Tip" comment is correct.

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  10. Thanks so much, hopefully I ace my English test!

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  11. I've been curious about this for at least twenty years. Thanks for the clear explanation!

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  12. hi...listen m going to write a comprehensive book of tenses then see how transitive nd intransitive verbs r explained.....there is a permanent set of intransitive verbs which takes no object with it....My book is going to be published from Oxford university press.

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  13. thanks now i understand what is transitive and intransitive

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    Replies
    1. IM NOT YO DADDY IM YO GRANDPA!!

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    2. Up had no idea but I do now

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  14. thanks a lot:)..m a teacher of eng lang..and was bit confused..thnks a lot:)...pakistan

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    Thanks and I am sorry some rude people waste such precious time offending people.

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  16. Replies
    1. please go back to pakistan

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  18. Thanks for taking the time to write this - it was a huge help. I appreciate it!

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  19. This is amazing. I totally understand it now.

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    ReplyDelete
    Replies
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    2. A moderator is very necessary for theses comments.

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  21. Hello,
    Would A fast girl runs be transitive? As the girl needs to be doing the action to make sense. Or The small puppy sleeps? Transitive as it's describing what the noun did. Is this correct. I get confused by this. Thank you for your support.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    ReplyDelete