Transitive vs Intransitive VerbsDifference between Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
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Transitive verbs are those which can take a direct object in other words the action of a transitive verb is done to someone or something. While an intransitive verb is a verb that does not take a direct object. In other words, it’s not done to someone or something it only involves the subject. Most sentences in the English language contain a subject and a verb and many of them contain an object as well. So, here are some simple examples of transitive verbs.

Examples of Transitive Verbs

  • We are throwing the garbage. (Throwing what? = the garbage)
  • She is composing a document 📄. (Composing what? = a document)
  • Maxwell is bringing a sack. (Bringing what? = a sack)
  • They are cutting an old tree. (Cutting what? = an old tree)
  • I am eating an egg 🥚. (Eating what? = an egg)
  • Karim is making a speech 🗨. (Making what? = a speech)
  • He is putting on new clothes. (Wearing what? = new clothes)

Interactive examples of Transitive Verbs

Lee eats pies.

  • Transitive Verb = eats
  • Direct Object = pies

Lee eats What, = eat is a transitive verb, because it is taking direct object = pies.

Lee loves minced pies.

  • Transitive Verb = love
  • Direct Object = minced-pies

Lee bought dozens of cakes.

  • Transitive Verb = bought
  • Direct Object = dozens of cakes

I baked a pizza.

  • Transitive verb = baked
  • Direct Object = a pizza

“I” is our =subject “baked” is our = verb and “pizza” is our =object. This verb = baked is known as a transitive verb. Because this verb has an object = pizza. Whenever a verb can have an object that follows it, known as a transitive verb.

He rode the bike.

  • Transitive verb = rode
  • Direct Object = bike

We move the sofa to another room.

  • Transitive verb = move
  • Direct Object = the sofa

What do we move? = the sofa because this sentence has an object the verb =move is transitive.

Examples of Intransitive verbs

  • The books 📚 fell.
  • The bird 🐦 sinks.
  • He walks.
  • I slept.
  • We are sitting alone.
  • She is standing now.
  • He fainted.
  • I laughed.

Notice, in this sentence, we have a subject = I and we have a verb = laughed but there is no object. Therefore, intransitive verbs are action words that do not have an object to receive the action.

The verb = fell does not have an object to receive the action.

He walks to the park. The verb = walks = does not have an object to receive the action, to the park is a prepositional phrase. Because it is not an object, therefore these verbs are known as intransitive. They do not have an object.

Both transitive and intransitive Verbs Examples

The choir sings the national anthem.

We have the direct object = the national anthem, therefore = sing= in this sentence is transitive. We can’t use Intransitive verbs in the passive voice. Only transitive verbs can be made into the passive voice. Intransitive have to remain in the active voice.

Intransitive verbs just involve an action with the subject. So, here’s something to be aware of look at the first example the Sharks are congregating near the raft.

So, this is an example of an intransitive verb the Sharks are congregating anything they’re just congregating themselves so the action only involves the subject the Sharks. it’s an intransitive verb.

but now look at this example:

The whales are congregating with the seals.

This time they are congregating something they’re congregating the seals they’re gathering them together so some verbs and we’ll cover these later can be a transitive or intransitive just bear that in mind for now.

 Let’s carry on with some examples the way to find out whether a verb is transitive or intransitive is to find the verb and ask what or who.

Another example:

You can’t get cats to pull a slip through the snow.

Let’s find the verb. Let’s ask what can’t get what… cats to pull a sled through snow. So, that’s the direct object making get a transitive verb.

Here’s a list of common intransitive verbs. Remember, these are the ones that don’t take a direct object. So, if you ask what or whom it won’t make sense. So, just look at the first couple to arrive.

Lee arrives late again.

So, he didn’t arrive at something he didn’t arrive at somebody which makes it an intransitive verb.

Here’s a list of common verbs that can be transitive or intransitive. Remember our example from the beginning where = we had the whales congregating the seals and we had the Sharks congregating near the raft. So, some verbs can be both. For example:

She will play the hornpipe. = she will play what? = the hornpipe = the hornpipe becomes the direct object. So, here to play is transitive, because it’s been done to something.

She will play tonight. = she will play what? = this time we don’t have an answer. She’s not going to play anything. She’s just going to play tonight, she’s going to perform tonight, but she’s not going to play anything, there’s no direct object. Here it’s intransitive. The only thing that’s doing anything is she the subject it only involves the subject it’s intransitive. Why should you care about intransitive verbs? The first thing to say is this is really good stuff for learning a foreign language especially if you learn it out of a book and not off the streets.

You will very quickly come across the term transitive and intransitive verbs. And, understanding what these are in English is a great starting point for knowing how to use them in a different language.


A transitive verb is a verb that can take a direct object. So you can find the direct object by asking what or whom after you found the verb in other words it’s done to someone or something. And, intransitive verbs are the verbs that do not take a direct object in other words. It isn’t done to someone or something, it just involves the subject itself. Remember this is useful stuff for learning a foreign language in English.

By Waqas Sharif

Mr. Waqas Sharif is an English Language Teaching (ELT) Professional, Trainer, and Course Instructor at a Public Sector Institute. He has more than ten years of Eng Language Teaching experience at the Graduate and Postgraduate level. His main interest is found in facilitating his students globally He wishes them to develop academic skills like Reading, Writing, and Communication mastery along with Basics of Functional Grammar, English Language, and Linguistics.

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