Transitive and intransitive verbs differ in the following ways:
Transitive verbs are also called object verbs because they are verbs that have to take a direct object and may also have an indirect object.
These are some common transitive action verbs:
A direct object is something that is directly affected by the action of the main verb. It is a verb that needs an object because with out it, it will not make sense, or not be a complete thought:
Transitive verbs may also have an indirect object. These are actually referred to as ditransitive verbs. 'Di' means 'two' i.e. two objects. So ditransitive verbs are in effect a type of transitive verb.
An indirect object is a person or thing that benefits in some way from the action of the main verb.
For a sentence to have an indirect object, there must also be a direct object, so they will appear together:
Here are some more examples of transitive verbs. There may also be modifiers in the sentences, such as adjectives. Note how the verbs will not make sense if you take away the direct objects.
Like transitive verbs, intransitive verbs can be action verbs. However, they do not take a direct (or indirect) object.
But a key difference between transitive and intransitive verbs is that the latter can also be what are called linking verbs. Rather than expressing action, they link the sentence subject to the predicate (the part of a sentence that tells us what the subject does or is).
These verbs are commonly forms of the verb 'to be', but also verbs often related to perceptions.
Here are some common examples of intransitive action and linking verbs.
Unlike transitive verbs, in some cases, a complete sentence can be made with nothing after the verb. But it could also be followed by adjectives, adverbs, the infinitive, or phrases.
But they can never be followed by a noun because this would then be acting as the object of the sentence.
There may be a noun in the sentence (e.g. 'window' in example 3), but this is not the receiver of the verb 'to look'. It is just completing the prepositional phrase.
There are verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive, depending on the context.
You will see, though, from the examples below that those which are acting as transitive verbs require an object (in red), while intransitive verbs do not, as they may have nothing after them or adverbs, phrase etc (in green):
Another difference between transitive and intransitive verbs is that while transitive verbs can be used in both the active and passive voice, intransitive verbs can only be active.
So if you are unsure if you are dealing with a transitive or intransitive verb, you can see if the verb can be turned into the passive voice.
An active voice verb is made passive by making the object of the sentence into the subject and turning the verb form to the past participle:
Intransitive verbs have no object to move, so they of course cannot be made passive. These, for instance, clearly cannot be made passive:
'Out of the window was looked she' or 'loudly was laughed they' do not make sense.
However, you can see that active transitive verbs can be made passive:
So remember, when you are looking at transitive or intransitive verbs and the passive voice, intransitive verbs cannot be made passive because they do not have an object.
Now test yourself in this transitive and intransitive verb quiz >>
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