Transitive and Intransitive Verbs

Read the following sentences.

The batter hit the ball.
The bird sang.

What is the difference between the two verbs in the above sentences? At first thought, you may say the definition but forget about the meaning. Instead, concentrate on the grammar. How do the verbs differ grammatically?

Notice that the first sentence has two words following the verb hit. The second sentence doesn’t have words after the verb sang. These two facts lead us to a discussion on transitive and intransitive verbs.

What are transitive verbs?

Transitive verbs are action verbs that have an object to receive that action. In the first sentence above, the direct object ball received the action of the verb hit.

Here are some more examples of transitive verbs:

I baked some cookies.
I rode the bicycle.
I moved the chair.
I stitched a quilt.

All of the verbs in the above sentences are transitive because an object is receiving the action of the verb.

But what about the sentence “The bird sang.” Is the verb in that sentence a transitive verb? No, in this case the verb sang is an intransitive verb.

What are intransitive verbs?

Intransitive verbs are action verbs but unlike transitive verbs, they do not have an object receiving the action. Notice there are no words after the verb sang.

More examples of intransitive verbs:

I laughed.
I cried.
The book fell.
The horse galloped.
The sun set.

In all of the above cases the subject is performing the action of the verb and nothing is receiving the action.

What about this sentence?

I walked to the park today.

Is walked transitive or intransitive? Think about the rules. Since walked has words coming after it, the verb must be transitive, right? WRONG! The phrase to the park is a prepositional phrase and today is an adverb. There is no object receiving the action of the verb walked so the verb is intransitive.

To recap, a transitive verb must be an action verb plus there must be an object to receive that action.