The Transitive Versus the Intransitive Verb

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One of our fans wrote in to ask:

Good day. I’d like an explanation of transitive vs intransitive verbs please. I think the whole thing still confuses me.

Our answer:

We take great pleasure in clearing up confusions about the English Language! So here we go.

The key to understanding transitive and intransitive verbs is to break those expressions down a little bit.

Verb – an action word, examples: jump, hit, run, swim, steal.

Or a state-of-being word, examples: is, are, was were.

The expressions “transitive” and “intransitive” only refer to “action” verbs.

The prefix “trans” means “across.” Therefore, we say that a transitive verb carries its action “across” to an object.

The prefix “in” means “not.” Therefore, we say that an “intransitive verb” does not carry its action across to an object.

In other words, a transitive verb requires an object for completion, whereas an intransitive verb does not require an object – it is complete in itself.

Sometimes, a transitive verb is referred to as an “incomplete verb,” and an intransitive verb is referred to as a “complete verb.”

Here’s an example.

Transitive Verb

Dwayne Bravo hit the ball over the boundary.

Verb = hit

Object = ball

Was the action transferred to an object? Yes, it was transferred to the ball.

Therefore “hit” is a transitive verb.

Intransitive Verb

I slept peacefully.

Verb = slept

Object = no object.

Was the action transferred to an object? No.

Therefore “slept” is an “intransitive verb.”

Here are some examples of transitive verbs and their objects in bold.

He ate all the candies.

She drove the car.

I chased the goat out of the yard.

I spoke the truth.

They believed our story.

Here are some examples of intransitive verbs which require no object.

I slept.

Jesus wept.

They lied.

She jogs every day.

We laughed heartily.

Motivation: It’s OK to be confused for a while. Thorough understanding of any concept takes lots of practice and examples.

Some verbs can be either transitive or intransitive depending on their usage.


He ate the cookie. (Transitive)

He ate before leaving for school. (Intransitive because no direct object specified)

Some verbs are always intransitive.

They never require an object. Examples: arrive, go, sneeze.

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Was this explanation good enough, or is there something that you’d like clearing up? Let us know in the comments section.

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