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Transitive vs. Intransitive Verbs and Direct & Indirect Objects

A verb is transitive in a sentence that endures some action and if it has a direct object, while an intransitive verb does not have a direct object and suffers no action.

Milena Lazova
Milena Lazova

Whether or not an object is necessary for the verb to express a complete notion, a verb is either transitive or intransitive. A transitive verb passes the action to the direct object in a sentence. Only when a verb acts on an object does it make sense as a transitive verb.

In addition, we can have an indirect object that specifies to or for whom we can act. An intransitive verb does not require and never takes an object. Therefore, without an object, an intransitive verb will make sense. Some have dual nature (depending on how you use them in a sentence) because they can be transitive and intransitive verbs.

A Transitive Verb: What Is It?

An action is transferred to the subject of a transitive verb when it takes a direct object. There must be an object that receives the action. That object might be a noun, phrase, or pronoun that designates the subject or object of the verb’s action.

Sometimes an indirect object can come before the direct object in a transitive verb. Despite the absence of the phrases to or for, the indirect object indicates who or for whom the action is performed.

Examples of Transitive Verbs

These phrases involve altering an object in some way.

Maria sent the package. (package = direct object of sent)
He gave the speech. (speech = direct object of gave)

In the first example, the direct object is the package that acquires the action (sent).

Maria sent her sister the package.

“Her sister” is the indirect object in this instance because she is the package recipient.

In the second example, the direct object is speech that obtains the action (given).

He gave his class the speech.

“His class,” the audience for the speech, is the indirect object.

An Intransitive Verb: What Is It?

By definition, a verb that is intransitive lacks an object. It is actually very easy to distinguish between transitive and intransitive verbs by following the object in the sentence.

There are two qualities of an intransitive verb that you need to recognize. The first one is an action verb that denotes a realizable action, for example: go, lies, sneeze, sit, die, etc. The second lacks a direct object to which the action is directed, unlike a transitive verb.

Examples of Intransitive Verbs

You can easily learn what are transitive and intransitive and recognize both the direct and indirect objects of verbs in words. These words must be used in the objective case when they are pronouns.

The following are some instances of intransitive verbs:

Maria sits on the front veranda to admire birds. (sits = intransitive verb)
He went to the office for a cup of coffee. (went = intransitive verb)

In these examples, nothing receives the action of the verbs “sits” and “went. An object cannot follow these verbs.

Is It Intransitive or Transitive? Certain Verbs Can Be Both.

Some verbs (for example, “to sing”) can be transitive and intransitive, depending on how we use them. It is significant to follow whether an object goes with the verb in the sentence.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he sang.
He sang the hymn at the beginning of the play.

To see in these two examples whether the verb is used transitively or intransitively, we look at whether the verb has an object. Is he singing something? The verb is transitive only when the answer is yes.

When you are not sure if the verb is transitive, intransitive, or both, you can look in the dictionary because they will be listed there.

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs—Summary

Here we have explained what transitive and intransitive verbs are and that we can distinguish them concerning the object in the given sentence.

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In other words, a verb is transitive in a sentence that endures some action and if it has a direct object, while an intransitive verb does not have a direct object and suffers no action.
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Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.


Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.

Valentina Dordevic

Hello! My name is Valentina. Book digesting is my specialty. I transform book ideas into easy-to-follow summaries, articles, study guides, reviews, essays, analyses, slides, or e-books.

Beth Taylor

Hello! My name is Beth. I'm from France. I'm a French and English native speaker and I really like writing.