Transitive Verb

A transitive verb is a type of finite verb. A finite verb is considered transitive or intransitive depending on its relationship with some other words in the sentence. Another way of saying this is that the division into transitive and intransitive is based on syntax.

What is a transitive verb?

Look at these sentences.

  1. He met her yesterday.
  2. She wrote a story last year.
  3. Rust destroys iron.

In these sentences, the verbs are the words met, wrote and destroys. In each sentence, if you ask the question: 'met whom/what?' - you will get the answers as follows:

  • sentence 1 — question: met whom? — answer: her
  • sentence 2 — question: wrote what? — answer: story
  • sentence 3 — question: destroys what? — answer: iron
(Note that we use whom in the questions for human beings and what for things and also for animals.)

The words her, story and iron in the sentences above are called objects in grammar.

A transitive verb is, therefore, a verb which has an object.

What is an object?

An object, we may say, is the aim or purpose or destination or target of a verb's action.

In our three example-sentences above, the verbs met, wrote and destroys have the words her, story and iron as their targets. These targets are called objects. With a transitive verb, we can expect these objects.

Why do we use the word transitive?

We call these verbs transitive because these verbs have the property of transitivity.

What is transitivity?

To transit means to pass through. Each of the verbs met, wrote and destroys in our examples has its action conveyed (carried) to the object. We might also say that the action begins with the subject (he, she, rust in our sentences) and passes through the verb to the object.

This property of the verb, where it allows such "passing through" is transitivity. Hence we call these verbs transitive.

Understanding these verbs in this way helps us to remember what they are.

Here's a list of transitive verbs

eat, drink, read, write, play, see, hear, answer, buy, find, love, like, understand, catch, bring, sing, meet, give, take, get, forget, buy, sell, pay, help.

Here are some of these verbs used in sentences...

Sentence verb object
(a) The teacher answered the question. answered question
(b) My friend bought a house. bought house
(c) The children found the money. found money
(d) Most Indians love cricket. love cricket
(e) Keralites like football. like football

What is an intransitive verb?

Simple, I suppose. It is a verb which is not transitive—a verb which does not take an object.

Here are some examples along with some sentences...

walk, jump, sleep, sit, lie, stand, weep, kneel, fall, fly, flow, remain, die, belong, wait, come, go.

  • We walk to the railway station.
  • The children jump with joy.
  • Babies sleep for many hours.
  • My brother stood there.
  • Jesus wept.

Some Exceptions

Transitive Verbs Used Intransitively

You will often find transitive verbs used intransitively, i.e. without an object.

  • They are eating.
  • We play in the evening.
  • I understand.

Intransitive Verbs Used Transitively

At rare times intransitive verbs are used transitively.

  • How did you cover all that distance? We walked it. ('walked' has the object 'it' in this sentence)

  • I cannot stand such nonsense. ('stand' has the object 'nonsense' in this sentence)

Besides transitive and intransitive verbs, we have linking verbs in the finite verbs family.

For Further Reading and Study...

Related Pages

The Study of Verbs

What is a Verb?

List of Verbs

Principal Parts of Verbs

Types of Verbs

Finite Verbs

Non-Finites (Verbals)

Transitive Verbs

Helping Verbs

Verb Tenses

Subject-Verb Agreement