Difference between transitive and intransitive verb
Here is a brief explanation to differentiate between transitive and intransitive verbs:
A transitive verb is a verb that denotes an action which passes over from the doer or subject to an object.
Example: The mother fed the baby;
He filled up the form;
They enjoyed the party, etc.
An intransitive verb denotes an action which does not pass over to an object, or which expresses a state or being, such as:
He ran a long distance;
The balloon burst in the sky;
Please keep quiet, etc.
A matter needs to be noted here that most verbs can be used both as transitive and as intransitive verbs. It is, therefore, better to say that a verb is used transitively or intransitively rather than that it is transitive or intransitive.
- The shelf holds.
- The shelf holds three books and a vase of flowers.
- The committee named.
- The committee named a new chairperson.
- The child broke.
- The child broke the plate.
An intransitive verb, on the other hand, cannot take a direct object:
- This plant has thrived on the south windowsill.
- The sound of the choir carried through the cathedral.
The verb "carried" is used intransitively in this sentence and takes no direct object. The prepositional phrase "through the cathedral" acts as an adverb describing where the sound carried.
- The train from Montreal arrived four hours late.
The intransitive verb "arrived" takes no direct object, and the noun phrase "four hours late" acts as an adverb describing when the train arrived.
- Since the company was pleasant and the coffee both plentiful and good, we lingered in the restaurant for several hours.
The verb "lingered" is used intransitively and takes no direct object. The prepositional phrase "in the restaurant for several hours" acts as an adverb modifying "lingered."
- The painting was hung on the south wall of the reception room.
The compound verb "was hung" is used intransitively and the sentence has no direct object. The prepositional phrase "on the south wall of the reception room" acts as a adverb describing where the paint hung.
Many verbs can be either transitive or intransitive, depending on their context in the sentence. In the following pairs of sentences, the first sentence uses the verb transitively and the second uses the same verb intransitively:
- According to the instructions, we must leave this goo in our hair for twenty minutes.
In this example, the verb "leave" takes a direct object, the noun phrase "this goo."
- We would like to stay longer, but we must leave.
In this example, the verb "leave" does not take a direct object.
- The audience attentively watched the latest production of The Trojan Women.
In this example, the verb "watch" is used transitively and takes the noun phrase "the latest production of The Trojan Women" as a direct object.
- The cook watched while the new dishwasher surreptitiously picked up the fragments of the broken dish.
In this example, the verb "watched" is used intransitively and takes no direct object.
- The crowd moves across the field in an attempt to see the rock star get into her helicopter.
Here the verb "moves" is used as an intransitive verb and takes no direct object.
- Every spring, William moves all boxes and trunks from one side of the attic to the other.
In this sentence "moves" is used as a transitive verb and takes the noun phrase "all the boxes and trunk" as a direct object.