Transitive and Intransitive Verbs
English verbs are split into two major categories depending on how they function in a sentence: transitive and intransitive. Transitive verbs take one or more objects in a sentence, while intransitive verbs take no objects in a sentence.
Distinguishing between the two
Put simply, a transitive verb describes an action that is happening to something or someone, which is known as the verb’s direct object. For instance, in the sentence “I am reading a book,” book is the direct object, which the action reading is happening to.
To put it another way, the verb is transitive if a word or words in the sentence answer the question “Who or what did the action of the verb happen to?”
• “The people watched the game from the bleachers.” (The game is what the people watched.)
• “I was eating a delicious steak for dinner last night.” (A delicious steak is what I was eating.)
• “They met your brother at the airport in Dubai.” (Your brother is who they met.)
An intransitive verb, on the other hand, describes an action that does not happen to something or someone. For example, in the sentence “I arrived late,” arrived is describing an action, but there is nothing and no one for that action to happen to—the action is complete on its own. The verb is intransitive if we cannot answer the question “Who or what did the action of the verb happen to?”
• “I can’t believe our dog ran away.” (What did the dog run away? Nothing, there is no object receiving the action of ran away.)
• “There was a lot of dust in the air, which made me sneeze.” (What did I sneeze? Nothing, there is no object receiving the action of sneeze.)
• “Don’t be too loud while the baby sleeps.” (What did the baby sleep? Nothing, there is no object receiving the action of sleeps.)
Decide whether the verb in bold are transitive or intransitive
1. She was crying all day long.
2. We showed her the photo album.
3. The doctor advised me to exercise regularly.
4. It was raining at that time.
5. She laughed at the joke.
6. She gave a cookie to the child.
7. The slept in the street.
8. I ate the cherries.
10. My father doesn’t drink coffee.
11. He always keeps his money in a wallet.