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.
- 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.
- After we eat at my house, we can go outside. (intransitive)
After we eat our sandwiches, we can go outside. (transitive)
- The truck runs on diesel gasoline. (intransitive)
My uncle runs a restaurant. (transitive)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.