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Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

It helps to know the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs, but the names are hard to remember. Here's the trick I use.

By
Mignon Fogarty

transitive and intransitive verbs

I hate scary sounding grammar words as much as you probably do, but I have a quick and dirty tip to help you remember the difference between transitive verbs and intransitive verbs.

Transitive Verbs

Transitive verbs require an object. For example, filled is a transitive verb and the cup is the object in the sentence She filled the cup. It doesn't make much sense to have filled without an object. She filled is incomplete.

The tip for remembering the name is to think of transitive verbs as transferring their action to the object. Transitive and transfer both start with the prefix trans-.

Examples of Transitive Verbs

Here are some examples of transitive verbs:

They designated a hitter.

The clock struck one.

I want candy.

He carried the bag.

Jose thanked Wayne.

Examples of Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive verbs don't take an object. Here are some examples of intransitive verbs:

He ran.

They napped.

The dog barked.

Blair gloated.

Clarissa winked.

Examples of Verbs That Can Be Transitive and Intransitive

Some verbs can be transitive or intransitive, depending on how they are used in a sentence. To cheer is one example.

They cheered.

They cheered the band.
 

She sang.

She sang a song.

 

Larry tripped.

Larry tripped Alex.
 

We visited.

We visited Aunt Ruth.

 

 

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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